“Daddy can play with me in the water,” noted five-year-old Isabel Hayes upon hearing that Lewiston’s forthcoming universally accessible playground at Marcotte Park would have a wheelchair-accessible water feature as part of a sensory rock wall.
Her parents, Erin and Ben Hayes, spoke at the playground plan unveiling due to Ben’s experiencing a spinal cord injury in 2007. With Isabel’s reaction to what she was seeing and hearing, Erin explained to attendees that “she’s only 5 years old, and she gets it,” while Ben shared that the accessible playground would enable him to be more engaged with his daughter when they play together.
In the fall of 2011, Lewiston was a regional winner of a Shane’s Inspiration/Landscape Structures contest, resulting in the awarding to the City of $10,000 in universally accessible playground equipment and $50,000 in playground design, development, and “Together We Are Able” educational programming. The City and stakeholders have worked for months with Shane’s to produce an original design for the first such playground in Lewiston and New England. The playground’s theme, “The River,” was decided upon due to Lewiston’s commitment to the development of Riverfront Island and enhancement of multi-use access to the Androscoggin.
To complete the project, however, sponsorships are needed for pieces of equipment and/or play areas. The accessible equipment will be fun to use by both able-bodied children and those with mobility, physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities. The project’s informational/sponsorship packet can be found at www.lewistonmaine.gov/playground.
Lewiston’s new, inclusive playground and its parking area will be barrier free. The ground surfaces will be smooth and level so that those with physical limitations won’t have to abandon their support devices. The playground will be sensory-rich, providing stimulation for children and adults with visual and developmental challenges. It will create an attractive, meaningful space with multiple opportunities for all, regardless of physical or sensory development, for unified play in a diverse environment.
Areas of the playground will include Riverfront Rock Wall, Sensory Rock, Animal Sculptures, Sound Garden, Spinner Alley, Embankment Fun, and Tree Canopy Swings – all incorporating motifs representing the river and colors, rocks, animals, and fish local to this area.
Stephanie Gelinas, Executive Director of Sandcastle Clinical and Educational Services, also spoke during the evening, noting the importance of all children being able to play together versus some on the sidelines. Others who spoke were Shane’s Inspiration Director of Project Development Brad Thornton and Landscape Architect Diane Scanlan; Lewiston’s Community Relations Coordinator Dottie Perham-Whittier; and Lewiston’s Director of Recreation Maggie Chisholm. Whittier and Chisholm have spearheaded the project in conjunction with community stakeholders. The project has been endorsed by the Lewiston City Council.
Stakeholders involved with the project include the Hayes Family, Lewiston Public Schools, Lewiston Police Department, Androscoggin Head Start and Child Care, the Visible Community, First Step Child Development Services, the Margaret Murphy Center for Children, Sandcastle Clinical and Educational Services, Healthy Androscoggin, Central Mane Heart and Vascular Institute, and the Maine Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Questions about the project may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Donations may be forwarded to Community Relations Coordinator Dottie Perham-Whittier, City of Lewiston, Administrator’s Office, 27 Pine Street, Lewiston, ME 04240. Checks should be made payable to “City of Lewiston” with “Universally Accessible Playground” referenced. For additional information on Shane’s Inspiration, see www.shanesinspiration.org.