Independence opens newly constructed section of Liberty Playground –

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The city has completed Phase II of the Liberty Playground improvement project, which features new play structures and ADA-accessible equipment for children ages 2 to 5.

The first section of Liberty Playground improvements was completed nearly two years ago, with new equipment for children ages 5 to 12, including dual ziplines, spinners and slides. This newest section is aimed toward younger children and includes equipment accessible to those who may have disabilities.

Recreation Director Tom Walchanowicz said the mayor, finance director, City Council members and department heads attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playground on Tuesday (June 16), as did some of the families who were involved in the initial planning for the playground.

Walchanowicz said the previous equipment was 20 years old and was in need of replacement. The new equipment includes slides, climbing walls and a merry-go-round, which is one of the new accessible pieces of equipment.

Walchanowicz explained that a child using a wheelchair can easily access the merry-go-round, as well as the new sand tables, which are located next to the sandbox and are at sitting level. The tables double as both sand and water tables. Children are invited to bring their own toys to play with in the water or sand.

The sand tables allow children in wheelchairs to play with sand and water at their own level. (Photo Courtesy of Eric Sarley)

There are other interactive features, including music panels, where children can push buttons and hear sounds like a piano and drums. All of the equipment is covered by shade structures.

The play equipment was manufactured by Burke and supplied by Snider Recreation Inc., which was the supplier for the previous playground phase. Associates from Snider supervised the installation, which Walchanowicz said was performed by city staff.

In addition to the play equipment, a poured-in-place rubber surface was installed underneath the equipment, which Walchanowicz said makes it user-friendly for children who may be using wheelchairs. Stamped concrete was put down surrounding the playground area, and drainage improvements also were made.

The total cost of the project was just under $130,000. The Recreation Department received a Nature Works Grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in the amount of $35,000.

Walchanowicz said the playground was planned in the summer and fall of 2019, and the old equipment was removed in November.

When weather permitted during the winter months, drainage improvements were made. The wet spring and COVID-19 outbreak both slowed the building process, according to Walchanowicz, because the city had fewer staff members who could work at one time and the playground company shut down for a period during the statewide lockdown.

Even with the obstacles, we finished close to what we had planned, Walchanowicz said.

The current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during this pandemic have altered the rules of play just a little. Walchanowicz said there are hand-sanitizer dispensers onsite, and signs are posted in the area stating that if people feel sick, they should stay home.

Additionally, people are encouraged to distance themselves from others on the playground who are not from their own household. Every evening, a city custodian will use an electrostatic sprayer or another sanitizing sprayer to sanitize the high-touch areas of the playground.

Its an upgrade from our old playground and a good addition to our current facilities. Theres more for kids to do, said Walchanowicz.

He said the department is looking into possibly adding security cameras to the gazebo in the middle of the playground site for added security, as well as a speaker system to play childrens music during the day.

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Independence opens newly constructed section of Liberty Playground -

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