‘All-inclusive’ vision for Pelham playground

Tatum's Garden in Salinas, Calif., is an all-inclusive playground built and designed by Leathers & Associates. Dustin Chandler presented a vision for an all-inclusive playground in Pelham during a May 19 City Council work session. (Contributed)

Tatum’s Garden in Salinas, Calif., is an all-inclusive playground built and designed by Leathers & Associates. Dustin Chandler presented a vision for an all-inclusive playground in Pelham during a May 19 City Council work session. (Contributed)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—On April 28, Valley Elementary School cut the ribbon to a new adaptive playground, giving the school’s special needs students a safe place to play. Pelham may soon follow VES’s lead.

Pelham Police Officer and champion of Carly’s Law, Dustin Chandler, presented an idea for an all-inclusive playground to the Pelham City Council during a May 19 work session.

Designed and built by specialty manufacturer Leathers & Associates, this new playground would not be merely handicapped accessible, rather it would provide a space for all children of all abilities to play together on an equal level.

“The special needs community needs more opportunities to interact with the wider community,” Chandler said. “Through the art of play (the children) can learn so much about each other.”

Leathers & Associates has extensive experience in building customized all-inclusive playgrounds of varying sizes that can include anything from swings and monkey bars to sensory stations and splash pads. Constructed according to stringent safety measures, the fully ADA-compliant playgrounds offer children of all abilities a “magical place to be” and play together, Chandler said.

However, Chandler envisions the project as doing more than bringing children together. There are opportunities for hands-on community involvement at every level, from fundraising, to planning, to building.

Leathers & Associates customizes playgrounds specifically for each city, incorporating important elements and defining characteristics into the design.

“The community has a say in what goes into the park,” Chandler said.

Additionally, the community can take part in the construction process through “build days.”

“It brings the community into the process of building the playground,” Chandler said. “The whole community buys into it and takes pride in it.”

If Pelham chooses to go ahead with the plan, it will be the first all-inclusive playground of this kind in the state.

“Pelham could be the first,” Chandler said. “It could bring positive influence and positive thought to Pelham.”

Although still in early planning stages, Chandler has already received supportive feedback from community members.

“What people can do now is contact the City Council and let them know you support a park like this,” Chandler said.