Ernie Roberts Renovations, Inclusive Playground : A Jewel for Residents and Visitors

Ernie Roberts park rendering

Ernie Roberts Playground Renovation Will Emphasize Inclusivity

DESOTO – On June 15 the Desoto City Council approved a staff recommendation to work with a company called Whirlix to renovate Ernie Roberts Playground.

The amount of the contract is $500,000 for the renovation.

According to Chris Glover, Director DeSoto Parks and Recreation the renovations will include a foundation with an emphasis on inclusive equipment that is designed to accommodate leisure opportunities for youth in a variety of skill levels.

“This renovated playground is designed to be a jewel for residents and a destination landmark for visitors,” Glover said.

It was in 2020, the City of DeSoto adopted its Parks, Recreation, and Open-Space & Trails Master Plan. The plan identified the need to replace, enhance and expand the offerings of inclusive play within the city’s playground system.

Ernie Roberts Park, because of its central location, was the park that was designated as the site to construct an inclusive playground according to Glover. An inclusive playground is one that encourages and enables physically challenged and able-bodied children to engage with one another in play. Usually, a wheelchair glider somewhere on the playground makes the playground “accessible.”

“Inclusivity ensures that kids of all abilities can enjoy playground offerings,” he added. “Aside from the physical aspect of play, an inclusive playground positively contributes to social and mental development too. It’s so exhilarating to strategically offer programming opportunities that include and accommodate historically underserved populations.”

playground equipment

Five Principles of Designing An Inclusive Playground:

  • Multisensory elements
  • Accessibility
  • “Play for all,” which means having equipment that allows children of different abilities to play next to one another
  • Opportunity for calm, such as places for children experiencing sensory overload
  • Social environments, such as equipment that encourages cooperative play

During the recent presentation to City Council, members were shown renderings of the playground. Different inclusive elements mentioned include ramps, puzzles, a merry-go-round, a zipline swing, instruments and soft surfaces. All of these elements are designed to make navigation easier for children using scooters, wheelchairs, etc.

While Desoto’s inclusive playground might be a first in that city, there are additional cities that have explored the idea too.

Inclusive Playground in Grand Prairie Has Been A Huge Success

Grand Prairie’s PlayGrand Adventures opened in January 2020 and according to Kelly Eddlemon, Marking Supervisor, Parks, Arts & Recreation Department for the City of Grand Prairie, it was an instant success.

“Experiencing large crowds and heavy use across all areas of the playground,” Eddlemon said. “Unfortunately, soon after that, the park was closed due to the pandemic for several months. Now fully reopened, PlayGrand Adventures is once again very popular as a true destination playground.”

One of the more popular features in regard to the playground in Grand Prairie is the swing bank in the Adventure Zone with a variety of swing components. This inclusive area also includes traditional belt swings, toddler and bucket swings, companion swings, multi-person disc swings, and a wheelchair swing.

Disabilities Are More Than Physical

“Many accessible playgrounds you’ll find tend to be designed primarily for wheelchair access,” Eddelmon said. “While this is extremely important, it is also necessary to recognize that there are a myriad of disabilities, not all physical, that we felt should be addressed when designing this all-inclusive park.”

To that end, the City of Grand Prairie designed PlayGrand Adventures to not only provide inclusive opportunities to kids who are physically challenged, but also for those of any age who have cognitive, sensory, motor-skill, or social/emotional challenges, and for the nearly 1 million people in north Texas with reported disabilities.

Only a portion of the 10-acre, master-planned playground in Grand Prairie is currently built, with much more to come.

Eddelmon said they need the communities’ help too since building such a one-of-a-kind, admission-free playground of this magnitude requires both City and private funding.

“We truly believe that providing outdoor recreation opportunities is important to our physical and mental health and wellness, and PlayGrand Adventures takes this to the next level with its all-inclusive design,” Eddelmon concluded. “Playground goers of all ages and all abilities have the opportunity to safely play together, providing both physical and social experiences that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.”

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And over in Mansfield they recently announced the renovation of Katherine Rose Memorial Park will feature all inclusive playground equipment.