Thanks to a $300,000 grant from Trillium Health Resources, Wrightsville Beach Park is getting a new play area that will be accessible to children with special needs.
The inclusive playground, which will replace the existing children’s area at the park near the town hall complex, is now under construction, according to Wrightsville Beach Recreation Program Supervisor Katie Ryan.
“We got the grant last October just two weeks after applying for it,” said Ryan. “It happened pretty fast, but it was a pleasant surprise.”
According to Ryan, the Trillium grant stipulated that the playground must be inclusive (handicap accessible), but it filled a need the town had.
“We haven’t had a facility like this in a long time,” Ryan said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
While many of the new slides will be the same as the old ones, more ramps will be added to allow for better accessibility to equipment. The mulch that used to form the base of the playground is also being replaced with a firmer rubber surface to make it easier for wheelchairs and walkers.
The biggest and most exciting change, said Ryan, is the addition of a Liberty Swing, which is made for people in wheelchairs. The swing will be in a fenced-off area that will be locked for safety reasons. A system will be set up so that those wanting to use it will be able to get access to a key, whether through a lockbox or some other way, said Ryan. Keys will also be distributed to area hotels for guests to use.
Adults are not left out of the project, as new fitness equipment such as ellipticals will also be installed. The town currently has fitness equipment near the basketball courts that is very popular, according to Ryan, and they were looking to add more.
“Hopefully we can get the parents engaged as well and give them something to do while their children are playing,” said Ryan.
Construction of the playground is expected to last three weeks, and the installation of the Liberty Swing is expected to take six weeks. During that time, the play area at Wrightsville Beach Park will closed.
The parking lot closest to the area will also undergo changes this spring, as meters will be added to limit parking time, but Ryan said the first two hours will remain free and those with handicap decals will not have to pay at all.
Currently, New Hanover County has an inclusive playground in Ogden Park near Miracle Field and soon will be starting construction on one in Hugh MacRae Park (also with grant funding from Trillium).
Ryan is happy that Trillium chose Wrightsville Beach as one of the places to install these new playgrounds.
“It’ll be nice to have a new playground that everyone of all abilities can use at the same time,” Ryan said. “It’ll be nice for everyone to be able to play together. We’re excited about it.”