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Fountain Valley to build its first universally accessible playground

Fountain Valley has plans to construct a universally accessible playground at the Fountain Valley Sports Park.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
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Fountain Valley will be placing a playground suitable for all individuals in its central gathering place by the end of the year.

Plans for a universally accessible playground were approved by the Fountain Valley City Council on Tuesday. The play area is expected to cost about $1.72 million.

A $1.45-million contract was awarded to PlayPower LT Farmington for construction. The vendor will partner with Unlimited Play — a nonprofit that helps to have fully accessible playgrounds built — to fundraise for and promote the project to the community.

Universally accessible playgrounds are touted as inclusive facilities that can break down barriers, raise awareness and build friendships through parallel play.

“A playground like this, it will be such a welcoming atmosphere for persons with disabilities, not only children, but also adults,” John Borack, chair of the city’s advisory committee for persons with disabilities, told the council.

“I’ve been told that a lot of adults with disabilities use the Sports Park and Mile Square Park. They walk around, and they might get a little bit tired or weary and need a shady place to sit down. I know there’s ample shade at this facility, so that would be one use for it beyond just the playground function.

“The fact that it’s multigenerational, the fact that it’s inclusive, that folks with disabilities can play right alongside other children, that’s something that would not probably have happened 15 to 20 years ago.”

The playground at Fountain Valley Sports Park, as seen on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Capital improvement funding of $400,000 was available from the past two years for the rehabilitation project. Park renovations halted during that period due to the coronavirus pandemic, city officials noted. The city also received $211,000 in state funding through a Proposition 68 grant.

City staffers said additional funding is expected to come in the form of community support. The Fountain Valley Community Foundation has pledged to match $50,000 in community contributions, according to a staff report.

“There’s been a push for [this project] for at least since we were participating with the Special Olympics,” Community Services Director Rob Frizzelle said. “Back in 2015 was when our city got excited about supporting what we would like to call a universally accessible playground [and] parallel play in our community.”

Frizzelle iterated that such playgrounds and recreation areas go beyond the step of helping those with physical disabilities. He noted the facility will have features such as musical equipment for independent play, as well as a sensory garden.

Renderings of the project have shown multiple seating areas, some of which are covered. There will also be shade structures on the playground itself. As the facility will be built in Fountain Valley Sports Park, there are references to athletics throughout, including a football gridiron surface beneath the zipline area.

A rendering of a universally accessible playground and recreation area for the Fountain Valley Sports Park.
A rendering of a universally accessible playground and recreation area for the Fountain Valley Sports Park.
(Courtesy of Little Tikes Commercial)

Like the current iteration of the playground at the Sports Park, the facility will also have poured-in-place rubberized surfacing to make it ADA accessible.

“When we talk parallel play, that’s what we want to make sure is if we have swings, or the ziplines included in this project, that the kids are playing on the zipline together,” Frizzelle said. “That’s what parallel play is, and that’s when we break down barriers, because that’s when kids recognize that all people want to play.

“They want the same enjoyment out of play. They’re looking for the same outcomes, and they all deserve that same respect, dignity and love.”

Councilman Ted Bui said he felt the project would be great for the community, but he abstained from the vote after expressing concern about the timing of the spending. He wanted to delay a vote to know the annual maintenance costs for the facility, and he was also interested in seeing fundraising projections for the project.

“Don’t forget that the park fees for the Slater project alone, I think, it’s approximately $1.9 million,” Mayor Pro Tem Glenn Grandis said. “Even if we were to not raise a dime, which we will, you’re talking out of the $1.5 million, we’re going to have a surplus on that one. … It can only be spent on parks. It’s not like we can take it and move it to the general fund. That’s only the first project in the next 10 years that is going to come before us. Each and every one of those will have park fees included.”

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