Hope Playground at Whiteside Park is Open!
Earlier this morning, I went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Tulsa Parks’ new Hope Playground at Whiteside Park. Hope is a fully accessible playground designed so that kids of all ages and abilities can play together.
What Does Accessible Mean?
As Parks Director Anna America said, accessibility is more than making sure you have an accessible swing or merry-go-round. Accessiblity means making sure every element of the park is designed thoughtfully so that everyone can enjoy it.
For example, the playground’s bright colors provide “sufficient color contrast for spatial orientation and wayfinding for children who have visual, hearing, or speech impairments.” (City of Tulsa press release) Part of this is a bright blue path on the green turf so that it is easy to know where to go without having to worry about elevation changes. A welcome sign includes a Braille translation.
There is an accessible bathroom with a changing table that can be used for older visitors, too. The structures are sturdy enough that caregivers can climb on them alongside their children. And yes, there are many accessible swings, merry-go-rounds and slides.
Hope Playground is just the beginning for Whiteside Park. Future plans include making a soft-surface, fully accessible trail, and fully accessible tennis courts.
And an exciting result of the project is that this playground will inform “everything we do now,” said America. With future parks project, they will ask, “How can we make everything we do more accessible to all Tulsans of all ages and abilities?”
The Burnstein Foundation contributed one million dollars to the project. However, when Tulsa Parks gave Irene Burnstein the opportunity to name the playground after the foundation, she said no. She wanted to name it Hope Playground. As quoted in the City of Tulsa’s press release, she said, “My family’s foundation is excited by the completion of our dream where children of all ages and abilities play together. We believe this beautiful public space can be a model for more adaptive playgrounds across our community.”
Mayor G.T. Bynum said the playground is “the physical manifestation of the belief of Tulsa that every child is special.”
And Lauren Pool, who really advocated for this project, said, “It’s about teaching our children that differences are what makes us special.” Lauren’s daughter has cerebral palsy. You can read Diane Morrow-Kondos’ interview with her at tulsakids.com/an-interview-with-lauren-pool-the-woman-who-advocated-for-tulsas-new-inclusive-playground/
As you can imagine, it was an emotional ceremony, and I am thrilled that Tulsa has this wonderful new addition.