City adds ADA-friendly playground to Aga Park
Last updated 7/1/2020 at 11:54am
Fountain's first all-inclusive playground incorporating wheelchair-accessible play equipment and sensory activities has been installed at Aga Park.
The project has been two years in the making, ever since Black Hills Energy awarded the city $15,000 to fund the equipment and playground retrofit.
"I'm just so excited about this, and I want everyone to know that this is finally here," City Clerk Silvia Huffman said.
Huffman, who also serves as the Parks and Recreation Department supervisor, said she and Parks Superintendent Jim Watson hope to add inclusive structures at all city parks in the near future. Next on the list is Fountain Mesa Park on Fortman Avenue, where the existing playground is about 23 years old. Because of that playground's small size, the old structures will be removed completely and replaced with a variety of new ones. As is the case now, they will continue to be divided into sections appropriate for younger and older children (2-5 years and 5-12 years).
"I chose Aga Park first because of the splash pad, because so many people come here and it's so busy," Huffman said. "Also, since this is a larger playground we had the space to add this new equipment next to the existing structures."
The idea for these projects came up a few years ago when a council member noted the city had no playground equipment accessible to the disabled. That started off a significant learning process for the Parks Department. They learned that the first thing they would need to do at Aga Park is pave the parking lot for better wheelchair mobility. Parks shared that cost with the Streets Department (responsible for paving) and the Water Department (because of its placement of tanks on site).
Huffman then reached out to community members to get input on what types of items would be helpful for this type of play area. The city worked with AtoZ Recreation out of Littleton for specific playground ideas, and ordered structures from the city's usual supplier of structures, Burke Playgrounds. Huffman noted that the research and planning process is what took the bulk of the two years since the grant was offered, not the actual construction. But now the city has a head start on planning for additional playground retrofits.
At Aga Park, the new structures are placed along a wheelchair-accessible path that meanders through the sand. The new items include hand-operated sand diggers and various stations for music, sensory and learning activities like telling time and sign language.
Watson noted these stations are geared not just toward children with physical disabilities but are fun for everyone, including those with developmental issues such as autism. Stations that make noise and play music are clustered together, while the sensory touch ones are farther along the path.
Although older parks are not required by law to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, playground equipment and facilities constructed or altered on or after March 15, 2012, must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, according to the National Program for Playground Safety.
Splash pad update
Due to the state's strict regulations for pools and similar facilities, the city still does not plan to open the Aga Park splash pad. Normally, the splash pad and adjacent restrooms are not manned by staff during open hours; they operate on a self-service level.
However, state mandates that the splash pad capacity be strictly monitored and limited at all times – plus hour cleaning of all restrooms and surfaces that are touched – would require staffing that the city simply does not have, Huffman said. Any hope for opening the splash pad this summer depends on the state easing some of those restrictions, Watson added.