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Inclusive playground opens in Antioch

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Despite the drizzly rain Saturday, more than 350 people attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the Treehouse Community Park in Antioch.

Once the adults had completed their preliminaries, the kids made a beeline for the playground
equipment with no regard for the wet weather.

The 6,600-square-foot space is unique for its ADA-compliant design, and primary goal to be inclusive for children with disabilities.

The Treetop Community Playground was officially opened Saturday, after more than a year of planning and work. The ADA-compliant design allows children with, and without, disabilities to use the playground equipment. (NorthBridge Church/David Latz)
The Treetop Community Playground was officially opened Saturday, after more than a year of planning and work. The ADA-compliant design allows children with, and without, disabilities to use the playground equipment. (NorthBridge Church/David Latz)

The project was spearheaded by the Antioch NorthBridge Church, and funded entirely by individuals, civic organizations and several local businesses that shared a commitment of accessible play for everyone. No government funding was used, and a non-profit entity was created to keep it sustainable.

“Everyone working on this project was a volunteer,” said Judy Bergh, a playground committee member. “After seeking other options to build the playground without any luck, the church decided to dedicate the land. An easement was also granted to the city for their use.”

Mayor Scott Gartner said at the event, “Antioch is proud to have the first accessible playground in the area, here in our community. I am grateful for the volunteers, donors and leadership…and NorthBridge Church for making this dream a reality for children with and without disabilities.”

Two firms, Little Tikes Company and Unlimited Play Inc., were involved with the equipment and design. The playground equipment cost $230,000. The entire project was tabbed at nearly $600,000.

“A child utilizing a mobility device would not be excluded,” Bergh said. “We looked at what was going to appeal to children with sensory issues, and how do we make imaginative play. We have musical instruments, like congas and xylophones … different engaging panels, which a child in a wheelchair can easily navigate.”

Items like silly face panels, where pieces are moved around, are among the amenities. The rainy weather helped test out the drainage tiles that were installed last month. Rubberized safety padding was also laid under the playground equipment.

There is a spinner wheel at ground level that wheelchair-bound children can enjoy. A special roller slide — a series of tubes instead a flat metal — was constructed to reduce static electricity for children with cochlear implants.

“The ‘Rockin’ Glider’ looks like a ship, and kids with mobility devices go forward and backward,” Bergh said. “It emulates the movement of the ocean, and experts said this was an important sensation for children to experience.”

Visitors to the newly opened Treetop Community Playground stand near the roller slide. The series of tubes halts static electricity from forming, which can disrupt children with cochlear implants.(NorthBridge Church/David Latz)
Visitors to the newly opened Treetop Community Playground stand near the roller slide. The series of tubes halts static electricity from forming, which can disrupt children with cochlear implants.(NorthBridge Church/David Latz)

The “Quiet Zone” was built for kids who are over-stimulated, a space for relaxing in the shade. Tactile sensory safety rails were placed on the ramp that enters the playground structure itself. Braille and sign language panels were also installed, specifically for children up to 5 years of age.

“The park will allow all members of the family to play together,” said Tracey Lowe, a
community member. “This park is a real game-changer for parents with disabilities, and
grandparents that are caring for grandchildren.”

Maryellen Zibell, the project manager, said, “Until I got involved with this playground, it never dawned on me that ‘play’ is not a spectator sport. The Treetop Community Playground gives the kids in Antioch the chance to play alongside each other, and value each other’s differences.”

The playground, at 18724 Route 173, is also being included in the city’s highlights section for visitors.

“We wanted to show the respect for kids with disabilities, and also adults with disabilities to play with their kids,” Bergh said. “It’s all about building strong families.”



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