Supplement Feature - October 2019
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A Splashing Good Time

Inclusive & Multigenerational Splash Play

By Joseph Bush


"Our goal is to continue providing splash play opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities," said Kanics. "Inclusion goes beyond access. We will continue to focus on the entire family—toddlers up to grandparents—as well as individuals with a variety of medical conditions. And through conversations with experts, families and the end users—kids—we will design products and splash pad environments that enhance all visitors' experiences."

Alicia Heiser, city manager and engineer for the town of Winnemucca, Nev., which opened a splash pad in 2018, said the project's inclusive focus was age-based.

"After doing some research, we found that splash pads could be designed for all ages without the safety concerns of swimming pools," she said. The splash pad features a very wide variety of components, she said, from very low-volume, low-pressure components to a large dumping bucket. The dumping bucket features a twist—a swinging board under the bucket that redirects the water randomly.

For toddlers, the 2,400-square-foot wet area has spray features that resemble a ladybug and turtle. Heiser said the older kids gravitate to the dumping bucket and water cannons.

The splash pad is open during daylight hours, so it can be accessed with anyone's schedule, said Heiser.

"Our community has really enjoyed the splash pad," she said. "Our goal was to make it free for the public to use. It has given parents an option for free water play without the cost and safety risks of taking their children to a swimming pool."

Get Inspired

In 2010 a park that has set the standard for recreational inclusivity opened in the San Antonio area. Inspired by their physically and cognitively challenged daughter Morgan, homebuilder Gordon Hartman and his wife Maggie used funding from the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation to establish Morgan's Wonderland.

The 25-acre haven for people with special needs and their families, caregivers, friends and the general public cost $36 million and is completely wheelchair-accessible. Featuring more than 25 elements and attractions, including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre catch-and-release fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-event center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout, the park has welcomed nearly 2 million guests from all 50 states and 73 countries.

The park has garnered international attention and awards, and its success has been the catalyst for two inclusive additions: Morgan's Inspiration Island, a $17 million waterpark opened in 2017, and the 102-acre Morgan's Wonderland Camp, slated for a mid-2020 opening.

"The whole idea is we emphasize inclusion, and we want those with and without disabilities to be able to come together in a fun environment where there's no stereotypes, no strange looks, no discomfort whatsoever," said Bob McCullough, communications director for Morgan's Wonderland and Inspiration Island.

"To do that, we want to make sure that those with different abilities can do as much and have just as much fun as those with what would be considered normal abilities. We coined new terminology—we call everything 'ultra-accessible.' We want there to be no barriers whatsoever to one's enjoyment either at Morgan's Wonderland or at Morgan's Inspiration Island. Ultra-accessible is very important to us, and that's the yardstick we use to make sure that anyone and everyone can have a great time at our parks."

The Gordon Hartman Foundation took what it learned from Morgan's Wonderland to create the waterpark. Modeled after the research done for the original park by a team of special needs educators, therapists, doctors, ride manufacturers and families of people with special needs, Morgan's Inspiration Island has unique features that make water play available for all and shows how others can work these accommodations into their splash pad and waterpark inclusivity plans.

Morgan's Inspiration Island has five tropically themed splash pads, a River Boat Adventure ride and extensive support facilities, the most important of which are its waterproof wheelchairs. Guests in wheelchairs who may have previously been unable to visit a splash park have the opportunity to privately transfer out of their chairs into three types of waterproof chairs—one of them the PneuChair, powered by compressed air and developed by Morgan's Wonderland in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh's Human Engineering Research Lab (HERL).