Shane’s Inspiration playground, designed for children of all cognitive, physical abilities, opens in Glendale

Children play on the new all-inclusive playground in Maple Park in south Glendale. Designed by the nonprofit Shane's Inspiration, the playground is intended to accommodate all children, no matter their abilities.
(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

Danny Lopez, 7, raced to the base of a slide at a new playground in Maple Park in south Glendale this past Saturday morning.

His walking aid slid seamlessly over the recently installed rubberized ground as he joined a gaggle of children who were busy exploring the castle-themed equipment.

Lopez and his mom, Mayra, traveled from Reseda for the unveiling of the all-inclusive park intended to accommodate children of all physical and cognitive abilities.

“As you can see, he makes himself at home here,” Mayra Lopez said.

Shane’s Inspiration, a California-based nonprofit that creates accessible playgrounds, designed the playground.

“He knows what he can do in these parks versus other parks,” Lopez said.

“He’s free to go up to the slide or even the swings. That’s such a big deal for him,” she added.

While many parks don’t have back rests on their swings, Shane’s Inspiration parks do, she said.

What was supposed to be a one-off project — an all-inclusive playground in Griffith Park that opened almost 20 years ago — has blossomed into an international phenomenon, said Tiffany Harris, chief executive of Shane’s Inspiration, which has since installed its playgrounds around the world.

The Glendale location at 820 E. Maple St. marks the 71st Shane’s Inspiration playground to open, said co-founder Scott Williams.

Williams and his wife, Catherine, were inspired to create accessible playgrounds after their son, Shane, passed away when he was just weeks old from spinal muscular atrophy.

Glendale Police officer Varooj Karibyan, right, talks with Danny Lopez, 7, of Reseda, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Maple Park for the new all-inclusive playground.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Harris, a longtime Glendale resident, said the organization has had sights on the city for a long time. It was just a matter of making inroads with local officials who have budgetary constraints to consider, she said.

In 2016, the local project started coming together.

In March of that year, Glendale City Council members voted to go forward with the playground, Mayor Ara Najarian said during a speech at the park’s official opening on Saturday. The playground has been open to children since June, according to city officials.

It was also decided, at the time, that funding would come from what was then a controversial fee levied on developers constructing new units in Glendale — despite pushback from developers, Najarian said.

“When they build all those new units on Central and Brand and throughout the city, the children that live in those homes need a place to play,” said Najarian, adding that development impact fees made that possible.

Last December, City Council members voted to authorize construction of the project, which cost about $825,000.

Before the opening ceremony on Saturday, dozens of children were climbing, running and rolling around the playground.

Above, wide ramps allowed kids to pass between turrets sporting yellow flags.

Harris gestured to the underside of the equipment, where another, much quieter world opens up.

Ideal for kids prone to overstimulation, including those with autism, the shaded area offers respite from the noisier parts of the playground.

Built into the playground’s walls are a variety of sensory and educational activities, including musical devices, a sign-language letter chart and reading prompts written in English and Armenian.

Among the children playing in the park was Matilda Lemay’s 2-year-old brother, who has a disability.

“We wanted to bring him here so he could have a fun time,” said Lemay, 9, sitting at a picnic table.

“It’s not just for disabled children, it’s for all our children,” said Councilwoman Paula Devine, who has long supported the project.

“[It’s] so they can learn to play together, to accept each other and … learn when they’re young that we’re all in the same boat and we’re going to all make it through life together,” she added.

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