New Oak Brook playground designed for all children, regardless of their abilities

August 23, 2018 | The Doings Oak Brook | By Chuck Fieldmam - Pioneer Press

It’s difficult to find a moment when Laure Kosey isn’t smiling when she walks around or talks about the Oak Brook Park District’s new $1 million Universal Playground in Central Park.

Kosey, the park district’s executive director, is excited about sharing the facility with the community, which is invited to the official opening/ribbon cutting from 2:30-5 p.m. Sept. 5 at the playground, 1300 Forest Gate Road.

“I knew we were getting something special, but it really is even better than I thought it would be,” Kosey said. “The concept of universal play considers the physical, social, and emotional needs of all users, so that everyone can experience the benefits of outdoor play and no one is left on the sidelines.”

The playground structure has two levels, and even the highest points are accessible through extra-wide ramping, which allows two individuals to pass even if a wheelchair is involved.

This helps to eliminate the sometimes awkward interactions that can occur when play stops to allow someone to pass, Kosey said

“This also means that a grandparent or parent with limited mobility will be able to reach a child at any location on playground,” she said.

A pour and play surfacing is another feature. The flat, spongy surface provides easy access to all the play structures, including a zip line, musical instruments, roller slide, dish swing and revolution spinner.

“The safety surface is what really drives up the cost of installing a truly Universal Playground, but it’s absolutely essential to making sure that the park is accessible to everyone,” Kosey said.

The roller slide eliminates the possibility of static electricity so that children with a cochlear implant may safely use it.

The playground apparatus even includes two spots where a grandparent or other adult may sit while watching their grandchildren or children play.

“The entire playground is surrounded by a fence, which allows parents whose children have an inclination to wander the opportunity to relax, make connections with other parents and enjoy the social benefits a playground provides for adults,” she said.

The sandlot theme of the new playground was incorporated because it is next to ball fields, said Jessica Cannaday, the park district’s marketing and communications manager.

Park staff worked closely with community focus groups and Unlimited Play, a nonprofit organization that helps to plan, design and build fully accessible playgrounds that allow all children, regardless of their abilities, to play together.

Funding came mostly from the district’s capital improvements fund, about $825,000, with help from an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant of $100,000 and donations of about $75,000.