Durango High School students inspired the Durango Parks and Recreation Department to invest in new, more accessible playground equipment at Santa Rita Park this year.
The equipment will be set up this winter, and it will be partially funded by a $150,000 grant from the state, said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.
To make the equipment more accessible for those who use wheelchairs or crutches, a rubberized surface will be placed under the equipment. The new surface also will help cushion children who fall off the equipment. At other playgrounds, woodchips are laid underneath play equipment, which can present a difficultly for those with disabilities.
“It’s going to be more inclusive for all children,” Metz said.
Additionally, the new playground equipment will include many ramps in the design, so those with disabilities can participate more fully. It will replace current playground equipment, which is at the end of its useful life, Metz said.
The Parks and Recreation Department started looking into more accessible playground structures after a presentation by Durango High School students in April.
The freshmen students studied accessibility issues through experience, reading literary and nonfiction texts and then looked for ways to apply what they learned in the community, their teacher, Jennifer Johnson, said. They presented a professional proposal to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that included a request for the rubberized surface.
“We were asking for some huge changes, both fiscal and philosophical, so I had no idea if the city could manage our requests,” Johnson said.
The city submitted the grant to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs this summer after the presentation. The city’s portion of the $395,000 project will be $245,000, according to city documents.