PARKERSBURG - A playground that is designed to be enjoyed by all children had its grand opening Sunday at City Park.
The Juleps Pathways Playground was officially opened by the Junior League of Parkersburg with dozens of children playing on the specialized equipment while parents and others looked on. Participants also enjoyed face painting, popcorn, cotton candy and more during Sunday's program.
The playground, which has been a project of the Junior League for a number of years, features special equipment for children with disabilities as well as access to the playground for parents with a physical disability or those confined to a wheelchair to allow them to watch or play with their children. It is the first such playground in West Virginia, officials said.
Sophie Mansberger, 3, of Parkersburg, prepares to go down a slide at the Juleps Pathways Playground which had a grand opening Sunday held by the Junior League of Parkersburg. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
The Juleps Pathways Playground was officially opened Sunday by the Junior League of Parkersburg, with dozens of children playing on the specialized equipment at City Park in Parkersburg. The playground was designed to allow wheelchair access as well as equipment for people with disabilities. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
"This playground is accessible for all abilities," said Ashley Brown, Vice President of the Junior League of Parkersburg. "Children with disabilities or those unable to access a regular playground will be able to play with no boundaries."
The inspiration for the playground was a little girl named Madelon who told her mother, Junior League member Juli Kerns, she wished a friend of hers in a wheelchair could come play with her on the playground at the park.
"I started looking around at the playground and there is no way a wheelchair could participate on this playground," Kerns said of the park's original playground's lack of access for wheelchairs or for people with other disabilities.
Kerns, who serves as a Sustainer in the Junior League, took the project on with the league voting to undertake the project in 2007.
"We wanted a playground where all children and adults, if there are adults who want to come and play with their child, can come up on the playground and play," she said.
The first year was spent doing research, looking at the types of equipment available, construction and the various costs. After securing the funding over the last five years, doing various fundraisers and securing other funding through grants and so on, ground was broken earlier this year.
The first phase, which cost around $360,000, is primarily an area for toddlers and young children. The next phase will refurbish the old playground at City Park with equipment accessible for older children. Eventually, organizers want to put a walking track around the playground for parents to use.
"We have already started fundraising for Phase 2," Brown said. "The next phase is bigger so there will be more funding."
Organizers are hoping to begin the work of installing the new equipment for Phase 2 sometime next year. Some groups and organizations have already agreed to help with funding and the Junior League is seeking other funding.
"As a Junior League, we wanted to see it get done," Kerns said. "Although it has taken several years, we will complete it."
Jane Burdette, of Parkersburg, who is also a Sustainer of the Junior League, said finally getting to see the playground become a reality is exciting and gives the community the chance to see what can be accomplished.
"I think that now that people see this part here, it will be easier for them to raise more funds, because they can see it is more than a dream," she said. "It has been a lot of years in the making and I can see many kids and their families that will benefit from this project.
"There will be more and more down the road that kids with disabilities will be able to access that they can't access at the other playground. It enables them to blend with kids that don't have disabilities."
Jeremy Davis, of Parkersburg, brought his 3-year-old daughter Paityn to the playground.
"It is definitely needed," he said of the playground. "It gives all the kids a chance to play together which is the most important thing."
Kerns said many people were tired of children watching their friends and siblings playing and basically sitting out on the sidelines and not getting to participate.
"It is important for all children to be able to play," she said. "It is not only physical, but it is also for the social interaction, for kids and kids with special needs.
"All children need that playtime. It is so important to have that. It is using their imagination. It is so important to all children."