Inclusive Playground Becoming Reality in Kearney

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

Kearney's Harmon Park will be undergoing some changes this summer with the installation of a new playground, but it's not going to be just another set of swings and slides.

Kristen Larsen, Executive Director of the Arc of Buffalo County, says it's been a vision of a group of dedicated Kearney residents for nearly a decade.

"The Kearney inclusive playground project really had visionaries back in 2003 who started to plant that seed with community members and city council members that it would be nice to have a playground that would meet all ability levels for all ages," says Larsen.

This summer construction will finally begin on the Kearney inclusive playground - a playground with double-wide ramps, special slides and swings, interactive panels, and a smooth surface designed for mobility devices like wheelchairs.

"I think people will come from miles around to utilize it we're finding because there are kids that need this kind of playground in the whole central Nebraska," says Charles Pickens, a Kiwanis member and long time supporter of the project.

Officials say the playground that's going to be built at Harmon Park isn't just a playground for kids with disabilities, it's, as its name implies, inclusive, and is meant for kids and adults with or without disabilities to have that playground experience together.

"Moms with little strollers with babies can access the wide ramps easily, grandmas and grandpas who don't necessarily want to climb up the stairs that you might see at a typical playground are going to get up there and interact with their grandchildren," says Larsen.

Grants and donations are funding the playground structure, but Larsen says the smooth surface that goes around it cost even more. She says that's where the city came in, working to pay for that surface with money from Kearney's half cent sales tax.

"The community as a whole has been extremely supportive, and I've been real pleased with the city manager and the city council," says Pickens.

By late fall, the city says the long-time dream of an inclusive playground at Harmon Park should be a reality. If construction goes as planned, the playground should be done by mid-October. The city says it will take about another month after that to finish updating sidewalks and parking around the park.

For more about the playground's features, click on the video link above.

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