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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students help design playground for special needs youth

 
 

As the population of College Station increases, so do public needs – one of which is meeting the needs of children with disabilities.
Noting that no playgrounds in College Station currently accommodate the specific needs of children with various disabilities, the Rotary Club of College Station sought out the A&M College of Architecture to help create a “great escape” for these kids.
As of Thursday, the plan, developed in part by landscape architecture students, was endorsed by College Station City Council.
At the Thursday hearing of the proposal, district governor of Lions Club Danny Stribling said the project has many more steps to it, but that the University’s work is excellent.
David Schmitz, director of parks and recreation, said students working on the project specifically considered a variety of special needs.
“Everything from kids that are paraplegic, quadriplegic, have autism, Down Syndrome, you name it, we’re trying to be all-inclusive for this facility,” Schmitz said. “One of the things that’s so unique about this is that even though this is designed for these specific things, siblings, friends, parents can all enjoy this park also, so that’s where we get that ‘play-for-all’ concept.”
Throughout the initial stages of planning, the title of Great Escape was thrown around in reference to the project, and Eric Bardenhagen, assistant professor of landscape architecture and urban planning, said the name just stuck.
“Working in the College Station community gives them something to work on that’s in their own backyard and an opportunity to give to future Aggies,” Bardenhagen said. “We do this all the time. It’s part of our DNA as architects at A&M to reach out to the community and do the best we can.”
Landscape architecture students began the planning process last semester, Bardenhagen said, researching the play needs of children with disabilities to better design a playground to meet those specific needs. From there, they created several conceptual aspects for park designs and selected three sufficient locations as candidates for the building process.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to interact with a client and take on a project that will potentially be a reality,” Bardenhagen said. “We usually wouldn’t take a project like this if it were just a traditional park. However, this is meant to be a destination for the community.”
To remove restrictions and initiate a welcoming atmosphere for special needs children, the park will include various amenities to benefit any child that comes through it. From wheelchair-accessible swings and specially designed slides to sensory items for children with autism, the playground will collaborate educational aspects with interactive elements to serve various ability levels in a universally accessible environment for all children, according to the blog of Schmitz.
“One of the issues we face here is that we surpassed the population of 100,000 and at the same time, the special needs is growing as well,” said Colin Killian, communications and marketing specialist for the City of College Station. “College Station school district alone has enrolled over 1,400 students with disabilities, yet we don’t have any play-for-all parks. In fact there’s none in this entire area. The closest one is in Round Rock.”
Early last December, Bardenhagen said six design concepts for each location were presented to College Station Mayor Nancy Berry and members of the College Station Rotary Club and College Station Lions Club.
Bardenhagen said the Rotary Club president had contacted the architecture department, and indicated Central Park on Krenek Tap was the top candidate for the project.
“This signature park would be seen as a community draw and will set College Station apart from any other surrounding communities,” Bardenhagen said.
Due to the $2 million dollar price tag on the project, Killian said fundraising efforts for the playground have already begun. Killian said if everything goes smoothly, construction could begin in the summer of 2015.

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