St. Charles County’s first all-inclusive playground is getting a bit of a facelift in time for its 10-year anniversary.
The Lake Saint Louis Board of Aldermen has approved awarding a $300,000 contract to All Inclusive Rec. LLC for the design, materials and installation of a new surface for Zachary’s Playground in Hawk Ridge Park off Orf Road. The board took that action at its Jan. 17 meeting.
The soft, pliable surface is a key component of a facility designed to accommodate children with disabilities who often can’t play on standard playground equipment. The park design goes beyond guidelines established by the American Disabilities Act in removing physical barriers for children. The cost of maintaining that equipment is high.
In April 2007, when Zachary’s Playground opened, supporters said the equipment might need maintenance in eight or 10 years.
That proved to be the case. Darren Noelken, the city’s director of parks and recreation, told aldermen on Jan. 17 that the city has been patching the play surface of the park for at least five years. Heavy use and heavy wheelchairs often rip up the surface.
“We’ve seen where two colors meet that the seams are splitting apart,” Noelken said. “It’s time for an upgrade.”
The city had budgeted $225,000 for the work this year; however, Noelken said the city’s parks board recommended the use of a more durable tile that is extensively in use at other playgrounds. The tiles fit together like a puzzle and are a better product with a good guarantee that will not require the same kind of patching, he said.
Funding for the project is from revenue from Proposition P, a 10-year, half-cent sale tax that city voters approved in 2013 and that will fund a number of parks and public works projects.
Noelken said the park will have to be closed to public use when work begins in late March. The park is expected to be reopened in late April or early May. The work also will involve replacing a sidewalk and concrete at entrances, so that they are flush with the new tile.
The journey toward creating Zachary’s Playground began when Todd and Natalie Blackmore found that their son, Zachary, couldn’t play with other children in most playgrounds because a disability confined him to a wheelchair. In 2002, the Blackmores were introduced to a more accessible playground in Washington, D.C., and they began work on creating a similar playground in Lake Saint Louis.
Zachary’s Playground opened in 2007 and featured a specially designed play feature, the rubberized surface and later a splash pad. The playground was one of the first in the St. Louis area and became a “destination” attraction for local families and those from other parts of the country.
Now, there are two other all-inclusive playgrounds in St. Charles County – Brenden’s Playground in O’Fallon and Jaycee Park in St. Charles. Similar playgrounds have been proposed in Wentzville and Cottleville.
Noelken said a 10-year anniversary celebration for the playground also is planned with details to be announced in an upcoming news release.