Hugh MacRae inclusive playground opens to all

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The new inclusive playground at Hugh MacRae Park, which was funded by a Trillium grant. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
The new inclusive playground at Hugh MacRae Park, which was funded by a Trillium grant. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

The first inclusive, all-abilities playground on New Hanover County property opened to a large group of people, including several dozen eager children, at Hugh MacRae Park on Tuesday morning.

The 7,000-square-foot play area was made possible by a $750,000 grant from Trillium Health Resources and features equipment that children of abilities and needs can use. Ramps, slides and spinning devices were widened to accommodate mobility devices, which will be able to move better on the new rubberized flooring (which also provides cushioning).

“This improves the quality of life. It improves the ability of all people to live and play,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Beth Dawson before the ribbon was cut to open the new playground. “It’s a great asset to New Hanover County.”

In addition to the adjusted apparatus, a Liberty Swing, which is built specifically for those in wheelchairs, is located in a shaded part of the play area. Swings, a rocking boat, and balls and baskets are also available for kids to play on and with. The entire area was painted in bright primary colors to make it easier for the visibly impaired.

Moms like Anna Lee, who brought her three-year-old son Riker, said it’s a great amenity to have locally.

“I think that it’s wonderful that it’s accessible to kids of all age ranges and abilities,” Lee, a Kings Grant resident, said as she watched her son explore the new play area. “It’s bigger than the area in Ogden Park [which has an all-abilities field], and it’s in a great convenient location. We’ll be able to get here easily.”

The new playground even drew attention from out-of-towners, including a family from West Virginia and grandparents from California in town to visit family in the area.

“This is great,” said Eileen Kanemoto, who along with her husband Benson brought their grandson Zachary Penneys as part of his second birthday celebration. “We’ve seen playgrounds kind of like this before, but not this big and not to this scale.”

Though the Kanemotos will have to return to their northern California home soon, they said they would be back to the Hugh MacRae playground with Zachary at least once more before they leave.

“His mom has to see this,” Eileen Kanemoto said. “She’ll like it.”

Trillium Health Resources has provided funds for other inclusive playgrounds in southeastern North Carolina, including a recently opened one in Wrightsville Beach. The old playground set from Hugh MacRae is being repurposed at New Hanover County’s Northeast Regional Park.

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