Oak Brook Park District to Open Million Dollar “Universal Playground”

By Community Contributor Jessica Cannaday-Oak Brook Park District

July 26, 2018 | The Doings Oak Brook | By Community Contributor Jessica Cannaday

Despite the summer's rainy weather, the Oak Brook Park District is on track to celebrate the grand opening of a $1 million Universal Playground in Central Park. The new playground is designed so everyone, regardless of age, ability, or critical illness, will have the opportunity to socialize, play, and explore together.

Oak Brook Park District executive director, Laure Kosey said that project falls in line with the agency's vision of helping the greater Oak Brook community be the very best it can be. "We recognize that play is critical to the physical, social, and emotional development of all children and all families," says Kosey.

To get the design right, the Oak Brook Park District worked with community focus groups and Unlimited Play, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that specializes in developing playgrounds that promote dignity, understanding, and respect among children.

Once completed, the fully fenced-in playground will be open to the public from dawn to dusk. According to Kosey, the fencing is one of the many components that makes the park "Universal," instead of simply "accessible." A fenced facility allows parents whose children have an inclination to wander or elope the opportunity to relax, make connections with other parents, and enjoy the social benefits a playground provides for adults. "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," says Kosey.

The park structure will span two levels, and even the highest points will be accessible through double wide ramping. Extra-wide ramping allows two individuals to pass simultaneously, regardless of whether or not they use a mobility device. This helps eliminate the awkward or ostracizing social interactions that can occur when play stops to allow someone to pass. This also means that a grandparent or parent with limited mobility will be able to reach a child at any location on playground.

Another "Universal" component of the playground is the pour and play surfacing that will be installed throughout the park. The flat, spongy surface provides easy access to all the play structures, including the dual track ride, 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," says Kosey.

The Oak Brook Park District Sandlot-A Universal Playground grand opening event is scheduled for Wednesday, September 5 and is open to the public. The celebration will kick-off at 2:30pm with a ribbon cutting, recognition of the project's private donors, refreshments, and a playground party. Maggiano's Oak Brook, Costco, and The Safe + Fair Food Company will be onsite supporting the event. For more information on this project, please visit www.UniversalPlayground.org.