About 54 million people in the U.S. have a disability that impacts major life activities, including having fun at playgrounds. Most playgrounds aren’t built to accommodate kids with special needs, but Santa Clarita is working on creating a play area for all abilities.
In February, the City Council awarded a $1.11 million contract to Utah-based Great Western Installations, Inc. for a project to design and construct Santa Clarita’s first inclusive play area, which will be built at Canyon Country Park, located at 17615 Soledad Canyon Road.
“Play is the universal language of children,” Mayor Marsha McLean said in a statement. “All children, regardless of ability, should be able to enjoy the playgrounds in our parks and this new inclusive playground in Canyon Country Park will make that possible. Inclusive playgrounds mean that all children will be able to enjoy mingling and friend-making, and we are proud to provide this opportunity.”
The benefits of inclusive play can range from improving brain development to cultivating social skills. According to a University of Windsor in Ontario study, 53 percent of kids with disabilities spend less than two hours a week socializing outside of a classroom. Universal play areas, however, offer a space for children of all abilities to play together.
The inclusive playground at Canyon Country will be considered a “demonstration area,” according to Jeff Morrison, project development manager with the city.
“The Santa Clarita Sports Complex includes a large play area and that development is a long way away,” he said. After receiving community input asking for an all-inclusive play environment, the decision was made to create a smaller version at Canyon Country Park before building one at the Sports Complex.
Though still in the very early stages, a concept design of the playground reveals features such as ramps for children in wheelchairs, roller slides for sensory play and a shade structure to keep visitors cool.
The locale will also include new seating areas and connections to existing facilities, including the preschool building, restrooms and trails. The play area will measure about 8,500 square feet upon completion, according to the city.
These features are similar to other inclusive playgrounds around the Los Angeles area, such as Shane’s Inspiration in Griffith Park and Brandon’s Village in Calabasas. Newhall resident Kat Walker, who is a speech-language pathologist in the Antelope Valley, said the idea of having one in the SCV is “fantastic.”
The city plans to hold two public outreach meetings to obtain community input and feedback about the project in March or April, said Elena Galvez, who is also behind the development.
One thing Walker suggests is having a wall with communication cards available for children “to point at what they may need,” which “may be handy for parents and caregivers without having to worry about bringing their own.”
Construction is slated to commence in July 2019, with completion anticipated by the end of the year.
For more information about the new inclusive play area project at Canyon Country Park, contact Galvez at 661-255-4911.