A new sensory garden and playground catering to people of all abilities has opened in Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles.
On Tuesday, the St. Charles Park Board of Commissioners held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the official opening. The new garden and playground are designed to provide people of all abilities with an opportunity to experience play together, said Laura Rudow, Superintendent of Parks and Planning for the St. Charles Park District.
“It works for everyone,” Rudow said in a news release from the St. Charles Park District. “That’s what we really tried to create here … a place to relax and play for all ages and abilities.”
Included in the area are native and sensory plants, a vine tunnel, log steppers, a musical play opportunity, baggo games and a rentable picnic pavilion. The idea for this project stemmed from a popular summer camp event, the Day in the Park, where campers from all over the Tri-Cities area visit Pottawatomie Park for a fun-filled day of outdoor activities including picnicking, water dunk tank, sports challenges, bounce houses and more.
“You have kids of every ability under the sun, and they’re all here playing together within the park…it’s so awesome,” she said.
While all of the district’s playgrounds meet ADA requirements, this new park area includes special features to provide play for everyone, Rudow said, noting that the district’s comprehensive master plan had included consideration for an all-inclusive playground.
A $248,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources helped make the new garden and playground a reality. It replaces a Safety Town that had no longer been used at Pottawatomie Park.
“This new play space fit the bill of the comprehensive master plan, accommodating our residents and taking out an unused amenity,” Rudow said. “It fit perfectly here.”
The St. Charles Kiwanis organization – also a supporter of Day in the Park – contributed to the project as well. Thanks to its assistance, the inclusive playground includes a wheelchair swing, which will allow individuals in wheelchairs to safely swing at the park, Rudow said.
“The Kiwanis did that for the community,” she said, explaining that the swing allows wheelchair-bound individuals to stay in their chair while swinging, eliminating the need for a transfer.
Another contributors to the project were local therapy companies, which created a “communication board” to help nonverbal individuals of all ages communicate at the garden and park, Rudow said. The generous donation was from My Recess Therapy, Fox Clinical Services, Lesson Pix, Riverview Child & Family Therapy and Thrive Pediatrics.
Meanwhile, those who would like to support the project are invited to purchase a paver with a personalized message in recognition of a loved one or special occasion. Details about the paver program are available at stcparkfoundation.org/memorialprogram.
Pottawatomie Park is located at 8 North Ave. in St. Charles. For more information, go to stcparks.org.