Orem to build all ability playground

Kids play on a playground on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015 at City Center Park in Orem. Orem city officials just completed plans to tear down the existing playground and build an "all ability playground" in its place. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

Alexis Marchbanks loves wind and speed. Being confined to a wheelchair gives the Springville teen, 14, little of either.

The same is true for Presley Gleason, 7, of Orem, whose only fun when she goes to the park is watching her sister play.

Both Alexis and Presley are looking forward to the day when they and their siblings will be able to play together, swing together, ride down a slide together and more.

Their moms, Lovette Marchbanks and Mindy Gleason, are on a committee under the direction of Orem City to design and build an all-abilities park. The discussion for such a park has been going on for quite some time with Orem Parks and Recreation, according to Steven Downs, city spokesman.

Currently there are no all-ability public playgrounds in Utah County. In fact, there are only four in the state. There are a few private all-ability parks, and Provo is hoping to build a specialty park if a RAP tax is passed by voters this November.

During the past year Orem has been looking for the money to build its own version. Through a combination of funding options the park will happen. The funding will come from the city's CARE tax, the general fund, and corporate and private donations. The park will replace the playground that is now at Orem’s City Center Park.

“We wanted it centrally located to be close to a lot of amenities,” Downs said.

That would include the library, ball parks, outdoor stage and pavilions.

There is approximately $350,000 dedicated to upgrading the park area and the public bathrooms with greater accessibility for those with disabilities. The park committee would like more.

The city is hoping to go through all the design planning this fall and winter, and to build the park in the spring. According to Downs, it takes less than two weeks to put the park together.

He is hoping there will be a large volunteer effort from the public when it's time to get it done.

“We’re calling it an ‘all together playground where everybody plays,'” Downs said. “We want to give every child the gift of play.”

The new playground will facilitate play for every child, including those in wheelchairs and with other mobility issues. It will feature sensory items that will help children with autism, and will be built to accommodate children both young and old.

Downs said there will be wider slides so parents can ride with children, swings that accommodate wheelchairs and more. The surface will be solid but not hard like concrete, so wheelchairs and walkers can move on the surface.

Presley Gleason is so excited she even drew up plans she wants to see incorporated on her iPad and presented the ideas months ago to the city. Some of those design plans will indeed be part of the park.

“It’s a dream come true for her,” Mindy Gleason said. “I don’t think she realizes there will be things her chair will actually be able to do.”

There will also be a fence around the playground as children come in, so parents don’t have to worry about them running away.

Lovette Marchbanks heard about the park when she was representing a colleague at the first committee meeting. Marchbanks works with the United Way of Utah County.

“It will be nice for my daughter to see she isn’t the only one in a wheelchair,” Marchbanks said. “It will be awesome for my daughter Alexis to actually get in a swing and swing and feel the wind in her face.”

Committee member Ruby Haddock, vice president of development for Kids on the Move, said if families know there is an all-abilities park anywhere close they will bring their children to it.

“When you see it (the park), it’s like wow,” Haddock said. “It gives me the chills even now. This is a really good thing. I’m totally stoked.”

The city is hoping volunteers and other donors will step up to make it a one-of-a-kind park that will bring families, siblings and friends together to feel the joy of playing all together.

“It’s a humbling experience to watch children be able to play for the first time,” Downs said. “When they brought this idea forward I wondered, how have we not done this before now?”

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801)344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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