They started around 8 a.m. with an empty, rectangular plot of dirt. By noon, there were swing sets, monkey bars and ramps starting to take shape, and soon Brick’s children – including those with disabilities – will have a unique playground to spend their time at.
About 50 residents and township officials volunteered their time Saturday morning to build the “boundless” playground at Windward Beach Park where an old playground was removed last year. They dug holes, poured concrete and lugged equipment from one part of the park to another, all part of a Build Day that was organized by the township.
The township, earlier this year, received a $9,000 grant towards the playground from the Kaboom Foundation, a national nonprofit that encourages healthy play opportunities for children. But the money came with the contingency that members of the community should volunteer their time in helping build the facility.
“We had a lot of volunteers who came out today, and it’s so great to see the support,” said township Councilwoman Andrea Zapcic, who not only was one of the volunteers Saturday, but one of the initial proponents of building a playground that was inclusive of all children.
“We talked about what we wanted to do with this grant money in the recreation committee, and we wanted something here to compliment the other playground [at Windward], and we also wanted something that was actually designed with the child with disabilities in mind, but was also totally inclusive,” she said.
After the concept was decided upon, Assistant Township Planner Tara Paxton and Deputy Recreation Director Dan Santaniello “took it and ran with it,” said Zapcic.
The recreation committee met with members of the Special Education PTA and the Parents of Austistic Children organization to get the input of parents before the final design was selected.
“It was really a community effort,” said Zapcic.
The playground was mostly completed by the volunteers Saturday, but will need a few professional touches by a crew from Corby Associates, a playground installation company, before it opens. The playground will include many of the staples of a regular playground, but designed specifically to include both disabled and typical children in the fun. Among the features will be a wheelchair accessible swing set where a wheelchair can actually be loaded onto the swing. Other parts of the playground will provide sounds and tactile feedback for children whose disabilities benefit from such additions.
The bottom of the playground will be filled with a soft, poured-in-place coating designed to attenuate the impact of falls to provide an extra layer of safety, said Zapcic.
Paxton said the playground surface will be poured early next week and will need some time to dry. The playground should be open in about two weeks.