Feature Article - October 2008
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All-Access Recreation

Going Beyond ADA to Meet All Needs

By Stacy St Clair

Play for Everyone

The Great Neck (New York) Park District is also going the extra mile to ensure the entire community can enjoy recreation opportunities. When officials began making plans for a major park renovation in 2004, they wanted the space to be something special—for everyone. To accomplish this goal, they formed a playground committee to help design the area and invited special education teachers and other educators to join so they could develop a site that would bring entertainment, exercise and fun to any child who visited. As the process moved along, the group's vision gradually turned away from a traditional playground and evolved into a sensory playground, an innovative playground designed using traditional playground equipment and landscape features to create a sensory play experience for children and adults.

&qu ot;The community didn't deserve another cookie-cutter playground," said landscape architect Spencer Levine, project manager at Creative Design Associates. "We were taking the Victoria Garden style and expanding from there."

The project, which celebrated its groundbreaking in June and is not yet finished, will place elements along a garden path. It will encourage visitors to use four senses—sight, touch, hearing and smell. A lot of the structures will be sculptural and have interpretive kiosks that are custom-designed to be large and whimsical.

"It's a place for everyone, where an elderly person would be comfortable sitting and where young children would enjoy playing," Levine said. "We wanted it to serve the needs for all adults and children and people with special needs. We wanted everyone to be able to be a part of it."

A spot that used to be a patch of sand with a small playground now is being transformed into an incredible space that will be enjoyed by the entire community. Levine likes that it will attract young children, as well as seniors from a nearby retirement center.

"That's really unique for a playground, how all of the pieces come together in providing recreation opportunities for people of all abilities within a learning garden atmosphere," he said. "Even though special needs children are the main target group, the Great Neck Village Green is a space that can be enjoyed and used by everyone."

At the groundbreaking this summer, Great Neck residents showered the concept with praise. The excitement surrounding the play garden, Levine says, is a direct result of the community's early involvement with the plans.

"We've had a huge reaction," Levine said. "It's been just great. We've had community support and input throughout the entire project, from the beginning until this point."