The Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Commission discussed a possible inclusive playground at Westside Park during its March 3 regular meeting. The meeting culminated in scheduling a workshop session to discuss the next steps.
Commissioners heard presentations from parent Susan Schultz, who works in special education, commission Vice-Chair Dedrick Thompson, and Tracey Edgar, a business development manager from Whirlix, a playground manufacturer that specializes in accessible playgrounds.
“Consider how many people you know that have a disability,” Schultz said during her presentation. “Speech impairment, physical disability, mental disability, maybe autism, orthopedic — you’ve heard this terminology before. And now, consider how many people are just different. People who maybe have had skin cancer, they need shade. People who are recovering from knee surgery. People who maybe just have bad backs who can’t bend over to play. That probably fits a lot of us in the room.”
Inclusion was the theme of all three presentations that commissioners heard at the meeting. All cited a large number of people who could be left out at modern playgrounds, even those adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Eighty-five in every 1,000 children has some form of disability,” said Thompson, who has two children with autism. “I think anybody is enough for our concern, though. I think that’s the main thing. Being included, being a part of not only social functions but family functions is important. … Having inclusion in not just the house but in the parks and whatnot, that improves social skills. My wife and I can attest to that.”
Whirlix presented options that ranged in design and cost, from $50,000 to $375,000, depending on size and other factors. These would likely be subject to change based on input from the parks commission.
The presentations ended with Commissioner Charles Watkins calling for a future workshop to assess options and consider future action. Watkins also suggested the commission looks at ways to make existing parks more accessible and inclusive.
“We need to say, ‘What do we have now?” Watkins said. “Look at the playgrounds around. Are they as inclusive as they could be? That’s something we can do in the short term and right away. Do we have a need for a new playground with new inclusive facilities? We’ll be able to look at that and come to a proposal we can take to the city.”