Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Opening of Phase One of the Oakledge for All Accessible Playground
As the first universally accessible playground in the region, the Oakledge for All playground will give more people access to play. Looking forward, community members are leading a fundraising campaign to complete the playground.
Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the opening of the first phase of the Oakledge for All playground at Oakledge Park. As the first universally accessible playground in the region, Oakledge for All features accessible play structures, surfaces, and pathways that allow people with a range of mobility, visual, sensory, and other needs to be able to play.
“Burlington’s history of investing in our recreational resources has given our community access to world-class parks and outdoor spaces,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Today, I’m proud to announce the opening of the first phase of the Oakledge for All playground, which will extend those opportunities for play and recreation to more members of our community. This grassroots, community-driven project creates an important resource for our City, and highlights Burlingtonians’ commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
“Working in partnership with the dedicated group of Oakledge for All and the creative designs of GroundView, our team has embarked on a first-of-its kind playground for our parks system,” said Cindi Wight, Director of Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront. “We’re thrilled to receive a grant to help kick start this ambitious project of installing an expansive accessible playground.”
Phase one of the Oakledge for All playground is funded in part with a $30,000 play space grant from The Walt Disney Company. The grant is part of the National Recreation and Park Association and Disney’s national Meet Me at the Park program, which aims to support healthy lifestyles by providing one million kids and families with greater access to play. Burlington’s Penny for Parks program, a parks improvement fund that was approved by Burlington voters in 2008, is contributing additional funding of up to $75,000.
With these funds, the first phase features core playground components, including a wheel-in rocker accessed by a sustainable-wood ramp, a multi-user swing, a swing with head support, and a new connection to the Burlington Bike Path that provides an accessible entrance and exit to the playground. The playground sits atop permeable recycled rubber surfacing, a first in a Burlington park, which cushions falls without impeding accessibility.
“This is our region’s first fully accessible playground for children and adults,” said Julia Wayne, founder of the Oakledge for All community group. “Inclusion is at the core of community, and we are so excited to be at this special point of bringing the playground to life and serving as a resource for other communities.”
“I’m very grateful to Burlington for prioritizing this playground,” said Annie Bourdon, a Burlington resident and member of the Oakledge for All community group. “It means that my son Otis, who has cerebral palsy, can finally swing and play alongside his sister and friends at our neighborhood playground—a simple pleasure I know he’ll enjoy. Oakledge for All is a bold and beautiful step towards making our community more inclusive of people with disabilities, and the first of many projects I’ll champion on behalf of Otis and the community we love.”
“From the first moment that the Oakledge for All committee presented their vision to those of us on the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Commission, we have all been firmly in support,” said Laura Hale, Parks Commissioner. “Accessibility benefits everyone, and having a universally accessible playground opens up the world of exploration and play to all members of our community. Having seen my nephew, who has multiple physical and developmental disabilities, nearly explode with joy and delight while getting to experience the accessible play structures in his community and the difference it has made for him to connect with other kids of all abilities in that way, I know that this is a critical addition to Burlington and one that is long overdue.”
“The Parks Foundation fully supports this wonderful initiative,” said John Bossange, Board Chair of the Burlington Parks Foundation. “The playground will be a unique destination for families offering an enriching experience by the lake in beautiful Oakledge Park. Because this project is along the Bike Path, when combined with the total rehabilitation of the eight miles of the path, it will make the connection to the greater Greenway much easier and more enjoyable for everyone.”
Looking forward, community members are launching a fundraising campaign to expand the playground. The community members have formed the group Oakledge for All, and with the Parks Foundation of Burlington as a fiscal sponsor, are working to attract donations to the playground. The group is also working with Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront to pursue grant opportunities. The plans for the expanded playground include additional play and recreation features, such as nature-based play experiences.
To celebrate the opening of the first phase of the playground, as well as to launch the fundraising campaign, the Oakledge for All community group and Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront are hosting an event on Saturday, October 27 from 2-4pm at the playground. The free event will feature live music, face painting, and tasty treats. For more information about the event, see: www.facebook.com/events/335158483979456/.
History of the Oakledge for All Accessible Playground
In 2012, the Oakledge for All community group (which was called Play and Engage in Accessible Spaces for Everyone, or PEASE), brought a proposal for a universally accessible playground to Burlington Parks, Recreation, & Waterfront (BPRW). BPRW enthusiastically embraced the project and incorporated it into the Parks Master Plan. Through this process, BPRW identified Oakledge Park as the ideal home for the future playground because of its beautiful natural setting, existing recreational resources, connection to the Bike Path, facilities, and broad user base. Oakledge Park is also in need of repairs, which makes the renovation to make the park accessible both timely and efficient.
After selecting Oakledge as the site, in 2016, BPRW embarked on designing the playground, which included public engagement to solicit ideas and promote awareness. Through this process, BPRW and community members achieved a shared vision to create a playground that provides play opportunities for everyone; supports social, physical, and cultural diversity; strengthens our community; provides access to Lake Champlain and the Burlington Bike Path; offers a unique range of recreational play features, rehabilitation equipment, and nature-based experiences for children and adults; and exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and achieves universally accessible (UA) principles.
For more information about Oakledge for All, visit oakledgeforall.org.