'Boundless' playground to please all
Civic clubs commit to raising funds for a playground that suits those who are able-bodied or have special needs.
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
Published August 6, 2006
DUNEDIN - The play area will have the usual amenities: fake toadstools and lily pads, colorful benches and slides.
And the not so usual: Special handrails and wide ramps for wheelchairs. A rock wall, a telescope, and three levels all accessible to kids who may not be as able-bodied as their friends.
It's called a "boundless" playground. And come next year, it will be ready for use at Highlander Park.
"Children in wheelchairs can be in the middle of play, rather than sit on the outskirts, watching," said Peg Cummings, the city's recreation division director. "The whole concept is inclusive play where children with all abilities can play together."
The Dunedin Kiwanis Club, in an effort with the Dunedin Boat Club, has pledged to raise up to $100,000 over three years for the boundless playground, which will be built at the new community center that is under construction in the park.
Total cost of the playground will be $157,887. City commissioners voted Thursday to approve the contract with a national firm called GameTime.
Since the Americans with Disabilities Act, the city had been looking into playground equipment that is wheelchair accessible. And in 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush started the Florida Boundless Playgrounds Initiative, pledging to get 50 such playgrounds in the state.
City officials started talking to some of the Rotary clubs a couple years ago, hoping they could help fund a boundless playground, said interim City Manager Harry Gross.
Then the Kiwanis came forward.
Getting a six-figure donation from a civic group is rare, at least in Dunedin.
"That's pretty unusual, I have to say," Gross said. "It may be the first I'm aware of ... It's a very unusual amount for a fairly small club to take on."
The plan is to raise a good chunk of the money at the annual Dunedin Cup and Kiwanis Regatta along the city's waterfront. This year's race will be in October.
Last year, the regatta raised $10,000. All that money went to the city toward the playground project. Kiwanis hopes to make double that number in October, said Henry Hardin, the club's past president.
He realizes that Kiwanis still has a long way to go.
"We're in the process of trying to take care of this responsibility," Hardin said.
Aside from the regatta, the club is looking for donors big and small to help.
The rest of the playground funds will come partly from a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was given to Dunedin for the construction of the Community Center.
The boundless playground, with rubber surfaces and handrails on slides, will be built in a yard next to the children's wing.
Both the playground and community center are expected to be finished in November, though a grand opening is planned at the start of the new year.
Dunedin already has 10 playgrounds, said Gross, the city manager.
But this one will be the most expensive.
Previously, the city's priciest major play unit was a $50,000 pirate ship-looking playground at Edgewater Park.
"That's the reason this is called boundless. It will accommodate an elderly person and a small child," said Hardin of the Kiwanis Club. "It's not like there's going to be a swing, and Grandpa's gonna swing you."
There will be diversified equipment, suitable for the young and old, who are able-bodied or have special needs.
"Tunnels and things - it's unreal," Hardin said.
In May, Safety Harbor city commissioners voted to build a boundless playground in a park on Alligator Lake. And in Clearwater, a "limitless" playground is being built at the Long Center on North Belcher Road.
Vanessa de la Torre can be reached at 727 445-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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