Column: Ready, Set, Play

Published 3:03 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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On the morning of Saturday, May 11, I had the extreme pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening of the new Pelham City Park playground and splash pad.

When I approached the canopy under which the Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Brian Cooper was addressing the crowd, I was struck by the colorful state-of-the-art playground behind him. It looked like something out of a commercial with a soaring tower, rope climbing mazes and swings.

I shifted my focus to the ceremony itself as Mayor Gary Waters cut the green ribbon with the help of his adorable granddaughter in a deeply charming display.

But by far, my favorite part of the whole morning was watching the children swarm the new playground. The frenetic energy of the hoard of kids buzzed in the air and I couldn’t help but laugh at their youthful abandon.

In the blink of an eye, a child had scaled the rope climbing wall and another was taking the inaugural journey down the slide. Tiny feet hopped across elevated stepping stones—called pebble step climbers—as tiny hands flew across the activity wall.

And while children descended upon the playground immediately, it took a few minutes before the first kid entered the splash pad. Parents fought in vain to apply sunscreen to their children’s faces and they squirmed to escape and try to make a mad dash for the water.

One little girl managed to break free, rushing to the splash pad while still wearing one of her shoes as her mom chased after her. I had the pleasure of speaking to her mother later and learned that it was the day after her second birthday.

The city of Pelham built this playground due to popular demand according to a citizen’s survey they sent out. Not only did they listen to the majority desire for a playground, they intentionally tried to make the playground accessible for all children in Pelham.

Unlike most playgrounds, the ground is a sponge flat material rather than gravel or wood chips, which allows for easy wheelchair travel. The playground structures themselves have ramp access and a wheelchair bench swing. In addition, the merry-go-round is level to the ground and large enough to enter with a wheelchair.

As someone with a physical disability, the city making such an effort to be inclusive is touching and hopefully speaks to our cities building a more inclusive future for the children of today than I grew up with.

The new Pelham City Park playground and splash pad was not only a hit with the children, but with me as well. I highly encourage families in the area to make a trip and check it out this summer.