Let’s Create Vermont’s First Inclusive Playspace!
Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront (BPRW) is embarking on another playground upgrade, this time at Oakledge Park, and it’s going to be designed specifically with accessibility at the core of design. BPRW is partnering with P.E.A.S.E (Play & Engage in Accessible Spaces for Everyone) to make it all happen.
The Oakledge Universal Playground will be the first of its kind in Vermont. After several years of research and preparation, P.E.A.S.E, in partnership with BPRW, are taking the first steps towards making this incredible new facility a reality. Groundview, a talented, creative and award-winning design firm, has been engaged to guide the design process.
BPRW and P.E.A.S.E. need your input! There will be multiple opportunities for community input during the design process. Get involved in Burlington’s next great play facility!
The term “universally accessible (UA) playground” is often used to describe a playground that offers caregivers and their children full use of all areas, regardless of ability. Vermont, with its amazing state and local parks, lacks universally accessible play areas for children and their families. We believe that UA playgrounds provide opportunities for play for EVERYONE. Accessible playgrounds support social, physical and cultural diversity, all within a common environment. The construction of a UA playground will make our community stronger.
The UA playground will replace the existing playground at Oakledge Park, a regional park in the south end of Burlington. In 2015, BPRW conducted a siting study which identified Oakledge as the ideal home for the future UA playground. Oakledge offers a gorgeous natural setting, recreational resources, connection to the Burlington Bike Path, access to Lake Champlain, and can serve a regional user base.
Key components of UA playgrounds include:
- Raised play areas (for mobility challenges)
- Structures that provide clear access for engagement (Autism, cognitive disabilities)
- Accessible surfaces between all playground components & parking (for mobility challenges)
- Natural playscape with quiet green spaces (for anxiety challenges, and physical, cognitive, and adaptive development)
- Inclusive equipment (for physical challenges)
- Color contrast (to support those with visual impairment)
- Components for caregivers w/ disabilities (accessible bathrooms, water fountains, seating, transportation, parking, and access to all play areas)
- Accessible exercise/rehabilitation equipment for adults.
The 7 Principles of Universal Design:
- EQUITABLE USE: Universal Design is inclusive design and does not segregate; ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate.
- FLEXIBLE USE: Each individual will interact with the playground in their own way.
- SIMPLE AND INTUITIVE USE: Play features should be clearly understood immediately by children of all ages, physical ability, or cognitive ability.
- PERCEPTIBLE INFORMATION: People learn in various modes so design information to appeal to the many senses (Visual, auditory, experiential, etc.).
- TOLERANCE FOR ERROR: The ability to try something and fail safely while still being challenged.
- LOW PHYSICAL EFFORT: The design should take into consideration the effort required to get from one play feature to the next.
- SIZE AND SPACE FOR APPROACH AND USE: Consider the wide variety of body types, sizes, and abilities.
In case you weren’t able to attend the workshops, but would still like to share your ideas, please send us an email. We want to hear about the things you’d like to include in the playground too!
The Fourth Public Meeting
On September 13th, 2017, the fourth public meeting was held. The agenda included:
- Introduction to project and project team – Jon Adams-Kollitz, BPRW (5 minutes)
- BPRW Master Plan and Siting Study
- Project history, project goals, and the need for a regional UA playground – Julia Wayne, PEASE (10 minutes)
- Overview of universal design and how it applies to play environments – Groundview (5 minutes)
- Overview of Design, Budget breakdown – Groundview (10 minutes)
- Comments from attendees (15 minutes)
- Fundraising – Julia Wayne (10 minutes)
- Next Steps – Nina Safavi, BPRW
Here are some of the topic that were discussed in more detail:
What’s the schedule? Why wait for 2019?
- At this stage we are working on final construction drawings and getting complete and detailed cost analysis
- Like most projects we undertake, there will be a lengthy permitting process.
- By combining the project with Burlington Greenway rehabilitation schedule for 2019, we will be able to take advantage of significant cost savings.
- This timeframe also allows for full vetting process of the design and construction drawings.
- Planning to build in 2019 also allows for ample fundraising time with a capital campaign leading the way now through 2018. The groups will build more awareness of the project and will need a strong crowdfunding campaign.
Is there anything you can do more immediately to provide access to accessible playground equipment?
- We can certainly look into Installing a few pieces of equipment as part of our regular playground maintenance. We will also need to address the surrounding footing to make it more accessible. Most of our playgrounds are surrounded by woodchips for safety, so we will need to source suitable mat that meets proper safety requirement.
What is the Project origin story?
- As is the case for many great projects, they take time to develop. PEASE began the project in 2010 as part of a post-graduate fellowship. Since then PEASE has spent a few years raising awareness. Getting endorsements and small grants to support the project. In 2013 they even developed a preliminary design that had a long wish list of accessible play features.
- In 2015 BPRW finished its Parks Master Plan that developed the 7 systems themes to guide future planning. These themes affirmatively included increasing accessibility, creating social spaces and enhancing wellness opportunities, as well as stewarding our environment. This accessible playground aligns with those values!
- Later BPRW conducted a siting study at Oakledge and concluded that location would ideal for an accessible playground
- PEASE and BRPW agreed to work together in 2015
- Throughout 2016 a playground design team was chosen and plans were created with a series of public meeting along the way to inform the process and gather public input.
How will the project be funded?
- BPRW has had great success in leveraging budgeted funds with other funding sources.
- City Contribution: $211,000
- Penny for Parks – Approved by voters in 2008, Penny for Parks (PFP) is BPRW’s primary capital resource for park improvements and is supported by a dedicated tax. Derived from the Grand List, the average annual PFP allocation is ~$350,000 which is available for all playground improvements in the Burlington. A portion of the Oakledge Universal playground costs will be funded by PFP.
- Bike Path Capital Funds – The bike path runs along the playground. Bike Path improvement funds will be used to accessibly connect paths, grading and stormwater management features.
- Public Donations: A website will be up and running soon to collect donations by community donors.
- Grants: The project team has identified over a dozen state, federal and other grants that are being pursue.
- Gifts from Regional Organizations: The project team will be pitching contribution opportunities to other regional organizations.
What is the role of the Parks Foundation?
- The Parks Foundation of Burlington is an independent, nonprofit organization formed in 2013. On a project by project basis, funds are raised from grants and donations. The Parks Foundation will be the fiscal agent for the proper stewardship of funds raised for the Oakledge Universally Acceptable Playground.
What Funding Sources are Not Eligible for this Project?
- Projects such as the transformation of the Bike Path to the Burlington Greenway in the Urban Reserve and the Andy A_Dog skatepark utilized multiple funding sources. These projects are located in the City’s designated Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. Oakledge is outside of the TIF district and does not qualify for TIF funds.
- Other grant funds received for other projects are not eligible to be utilized for this project. New grant applications are being pursued.
Why is the city not paying for construction?
- Similar to other large projects, the City plans to leverage funds from the Parks budget to raise the additional funds needed to build a high quality playground. The goal of the Oakledge Universal Playground was for BPRW to fund an innovative design and for the partner organization, P.E.A.S.E, to help raise the majority of funds to build the playground. BPRW has since strategized project coordination and budgets to align with other improvements at Oakledge, which will allow BPRW to contribute $211,000.
Equity & Access
Are there any accessible playground equipment in the city now?
- Yes, we have installed a few pieces in Burlington
- Star Farm – basket swing
- Battery Park & Pomeroy – New Spinners
- North Beach – accessible beach chair that floats, and beach mat
What are some other adaptive resources?
Will access to the park be more equitable?
- Plans for bus lines?
- Always Free to enter on foot, bike
- Handicapped parking is also always free
- additional handicap parking near the playground ?
Why make such an extensive playground that’s going to take to so long to raise money for and so long to build?
- We’re interested in creating a play space that not only offers accessible equipment for small children ages 2-6, but also creates a totally unique play experience for a wider range of people with special needs of all ages! We’re designing a playground that can be used starting at toddler age through childhood and into the future. It will be a space to create a lifetime of memories and experiences.
- Our design team from GroundView has experience creating places like these, and we have seen that they become a community hub for inclusive activity. The landform paths, special colors, textures and plantings and unique spaces are so important, because they address not only physical challenges, but also special needs for sensory and perception differences. We want wheelchair-bound teens or older kids with Autism to have a fun wonderful experience in a special place that’s designed with them in mind too. Even, parents and grandparents with mobility issues will be able play together with their children more easily in Oakledge Playground.
Who is the project team?
How will the park be maintained in the future?
- We consulted with our parks maintenance staff during the initial design phases of the playground to be sure that it could be well managed by our teams.
- We also regularly use outside services as needed
- As with any playground or facility we allocate budget and resources to maintain them.
- Sources of funds include our annual Penny for Parks and General Funds.
- We will work closely with our parks maintenance staff to ensure the longevity of the playground
The Third Public Meeting
At the third public workshop/charrette on Wednesday, 6/22, Groundview Design shared final conceptual drawings for Vermont’s first Universally Accessible playground, planned for the existing playground site at Oakledge Park.
Set against incredible aerial imagery provided by the UVM Spatial Analysis Laboratory, project landscape architects Will Martin and Eden Dutcher have developed captivating and easily understandable imagery of the proposed play space. Accessible highlights include: adventurous and artistic landforms, interactive water play, in-ground trampoline & spinner equipment, non-messy tactile play and a unique musical elements. From the Bike Path and lakeshore, the play space is shielded by an open, grassy slope, and runoff from the site is channeled into a system of rain gardens.
The designs take into consideration many aspects that serve to enhance the experiences of kids and adults with special needs. Changes in ground texture and vibrant color variations help those with visual impairment. Quiet spaces are included to offer safe places for those that are easily over-stimulated. The winding paths that climb to a wide slide provide a sense of adventure for everyone, including caregivers!
Now that the concept phase is complete, the next phase will be fundraising to make this vision a reality!
View the final presentation as a PDF: Oakledge UA Playground Community Workshop 03 – EDITED
The Second Public Meeting
We reviewed the next round of concepts. GroundView presented two concepts to comment on. Both were amazing plans that included creative play features while offering unique schematics that related to the landscape and lakeviews differently.
This time we discussed the details of what play features were most desired and the overall layout we all preferred. It was almost unanimous that the curving playful path and prominent hill featuring a wide slide was the winning concept.
Flip through the presentation PDF: 20160511 Oakledge UA Playground Public Workshop 2 Presentation FINAL
The Successful First Workshop!
Thank you to everyone that came to the Workshops on April 12th and May 11th on at Champlain Elementary School and shared ideas with us! It was an informative meeting presented by BPRW Director Jesse Bridges, BPRW Project Coordinator Jon Adam-Kollitz and our design partners from GroundView – Eden Dutcher and Wilson Martin. Presenters reviewed the project history that began with the formation of advocacy group Play & Engage in Accessible Spaces for Everyone (P.E.A.S.E), who have conducted extensive research, site visits and laid a strong foundation for the project. BPRW staff reviewed the lessons of the Parks Master Plan and the Oakledge Siting Study (the first of its kind in the Burlington system), and how they have guided the location selection and project goals/program for the universally accessible playground. Before dividing the attendees into breakout groups, GroundView reviewed what they have learned through spending time at the site, reviewing the siting study, and their initial meeting with BPRW staff. It is clear that GroundView knows that Oakledge is a special place and this project needs to reflect that. Leading into the collaborative charrette, Will and Eden inspired the attendees by sharing photos of projects that emphasized artful use of landforms, vegetation and loose materials, exhibiting unique & playful approaches to working with the landscape.
View the presentation below or download the PDF.
Here are some related topics discussed:
Will there be accessible water access?
- The Oakledge Siting Study locates a “wheels to water access point” at the beach (similar to what exists North Beach).
- Also recommended is reducing the number of informal footpath access water access points adjacent to the playground site and “hardening” the access paths that remain.
Will the bathrooms be made accessible?
- The Upper Pavilion restrooms were recently renovated and made accessible.
- The Lower Pavilion restrooms will be evaluated for accessibility improvements in conjunction with playground development.
Will accessible parking be reconfigured and affordable at Oakledge?
- The Oakledge Siting Study proposes a redesign of the Upper & Lower Pavilion parking lots. The Lower Pavilion parking shows 6 new ADA spaces, directly adjacent to the playground site.
- Accessible placards for ADA spaces.
- Affordable parking pass options.
Is there a dog park planned for Oakledge?
- Yes, while not part of the UA Playground project, there is both a fenced and off-leash area for dogs included in the Oakledge Park Siting Study.