When Play is no Obstacle
Ashley and Christi Dieringer
MCCOSH Park in Moses Lake, Wash.
By BETTINA GOINS
While McCosh Park in Moses Lake, Wash., had a lot to offer—22 acres of landscaped greenspace featuring an amphitheater, aquatic center, skatepark, tennis courts and picnic area—it's what the park didn't have that stood out to many local children: a truly accessible place to play.
But all of that has changed now, thanks to a local mom, Christi Dieringer, and her 3-year-old daughter, Ashley. The mother-daughter duo was the catalyst for a new playground at McCosh Park—perhaps one of few fully accessible play systems in the state of Washington.
The Moses Lake Parks and Recreation Department sought to provide the fully accessible play system to its service community of 30,000 after a visit from the Dieringers, who were growing increasingly frustrated with local playgrounds that limited the play of kids with disabilities. Ashley uses a walker for mobility, and certain areas of most playgrounds place limits on what she can and cannot do. The energetic child and her mother addressed the parks and recreation department with their needs after speaking with many others parents of physically challenged children.
"I talked to as many people as would listen to me," Dieringer says. As a member of her local Parent to Parent Coalition, she learned of the interest in a fully accessible playground for Moses Lake. She researched Boundless Playgrounds and playground installations nationwide that focused on the needs of children with disabilities.
"I saw what they were doing and said Moses Lake can do that too," she says.
As a result of their actions, a plan for the totally accessible play system for the children of Moses Lake began to take shape. Neighbors offered support in extraordinary numbers, and parents of other physically challenged children became involved in the project. Local professionals, community leaders, and moms and dads pitched in to help the city's park and rec department create the best play opportunities possible for kids of all abilities.
"My goal was to have 100 percent of the play components be accessible by children with special needs or limited function," says Rolando Gonzales, parks and recreation superintendent for the city.
Not only are the play components accessible to all, but the GameTime system provides complete travel capabilities for children using wheelchairs and walkers. The decks of the system form a diamond shape providing circular travel with access to the system by ramp. The safety surfacing beneath and surrounding the system is GameTime Poured in Place Rubber and is designed to create no obstacles for physically challenged children.
The Moses Lake Noon Rotary Club chose the playground as its centennial project and contributed a significant amount of the funding and assistance. The Rotary Centennial project meets strict requirements of the international club. The Moses Lake Playground Project will be submitted to the Rotary International Organization and receive special recognition. A playground project was ideal for the club considering it met all the requirements of an RI project: fulfillment of a community's need, provided a solution with measurable results, required the Rotarians to provide hands-on assistance and gave the opportunity for a Rotary sign to be placed at the site.
After more than 20 years in the park and recreation industry, following many playground installations, Gonzales discovered he really had never given thought to the needs of physically challenged children. He heard from residents citing stories of their children sitting at the sidelines watching other children at play on a playground that did not address their needs. He and others sought to resolve the problem and today can visit the park on any sunny day to see some very bright faces no longer sitting on the sidelines.
"It was probably the most rewarding feeling I have ever had in my life," Gonzales says of the project. "It's probably our most popular playground now—and we have 16."
Local children flock to the bright colors, unique design and smooth access provided by the poured-in-place surfacing. The play system features a GameTime WallCano climbing system, several graphic panels, slides and much more. The Dieringers and others involved in the project hope to continue improvements with the installation of more accessible equipment such as GameTime's Adaptive Swing Seat.
"You have to do it in small steps," Dieringer says.
The park now provides play opportunities for more than 900 local physically challenged children. Although the playground services the play needs of all children, kids like Ashley feel as if they own a piece of it.
"According to Ashley, it's her park," Dieringer says.