The planning and fundraising are done, the groundbreaking ceremony was Dec. 10 and this month, construction begins on McAuley Playground in Cottleville.
McAuley Playground will be the fourth all-inclusive playground in St. Charles County. All-inclusive playgrounds are designed to meet the needs of children with disabilities who often cannot play on standard playground equipment.
Cottleville Mayor Jim Hennessey said the goal is to have the playground complete and ready for use by April but that depends largely on the weather.
The playground is in Hansen Park, located behind the Mercy Kids Mid Rivers pediatric care facility on Ohlmes Road. Mercy Health Care agreed to donate the land to build for the park and playground. The playground is named for Sisters of Mercy founder Catherine McAuley.
Three years of fundraising and planning raised $700,000 to build the playground. The city contributed $100,000 to the project.
Donations came from a variety of sources, including the Mercy Foundation and St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s Catch 22 Foundation. Hennessey said the Cottleville Firefighters Outreach or CFO program, in particular, held many events to raise money for the playground.
Unlimited Play, a local company formed with the building of Zachary’s Playground in Lake Saint Louis, designed and helped spearhead the project.
Children with disabilities often get overlooked, Hennessey said. “It just seemed to me the right thing to do and, in cooperation with Mercy and Unlimited Play, it’s just added to our park system and made it bigger and better than if we put a regular park there.”
Meanwhile, Natalie MacKay, executive director of Unlimited Play, whose son inspired Zachary’s Playground, said she’s working to develop playgrounds in seven states and in Wentzville. Park directors now realize that ADA guidelines aren’t “truly inclusive.”
“We believe a family shouldn’t have to travel out of their own community to find a playground they can play on,” she said. “Each and every city ideally should have a playground like this.”