LINCOLN–(News Release Feb. 28)–Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, Councilman James Michael Bowers, and Parks and Recreation officials today announced that Lincoln has been awarded a grant to build an inclusive playground at Mahoney Park, 70th and Fremont streets. The nearly $400,000 Nebraska Game and Parks Commission grant will help the City complete its strategic plan to build four new inclusive playgrounds within 5 miles of every Lincoln residence by 2038.
“This grant and matching funds from the City of Lincoln will empower community members of all abilities to build lasting memories and relationships as they explore and play side by side in our cherished parks and playgrounds,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said.
Construction for the Mahoney Park playground is expected to begin in spring 2024, said Maggie Stuckey-Ross, Parks and Recreation Director. The grant requires a 50% match by the city, $300,000 of which is already available in the Capital Improvement Program budget, with the remaining $100,000 coming from private donations and City general budget, Stuckey-Ross said.
Design work is underway for the Mahoney Park project, Stuckey-Ross said, and under the guidance of the City’s Inclusive Play Strategy, every new or renovated park will include inclusive features.
“A playground is a metaphor for the type of community we want Lincoln to be. It welcomes the body you were born into, supports the body you are living in today, and is prepared for the body you will have in the future. On the playground, everyone can experience the joy of play, form friendships, and create connections,” Stuckey-Ross said.
Inclusive playground design includes physical accommodations that provide access and specialized equipment to meet certain needs, as well as provide opportunities for children to explore and play with children and adults who may have different levels of ability, according to J.J. Yost, Parks and Recreation Planning and Facilities Manager. Features include a range of play activities to stimulate and help develop senses such as physical, tactile, auditory, visual, imaginative/social, and risk awareness.
The improvements at Mahoney Park include removing the existing play structures, enlarging the playground area, installation of new inclusive playground equipment and surfacing, a water play feature, drinking fountain, benches and sensory plantings, renovation of restrooms, additional accessible parking, and redesigned walking paths, Stuckey-Ross said.
“Leading the way for inclusive play in Lincoln is the hallmark of my work on City Council, and I’m incredibly proud of the partnerships forged to make this a reality,” said Bowers. “An inclusive playground will be a destination site and help ensure that all residents in our city will have access to play where the only limitation is their imagination, not ability.”
Cathy Martinez, Autism Family Network President, praised the partnership between community members and City government that resulted in the creation of the inclusive playground.
“This park is a victory for the marginalized and underserved in our community. All of this happened because one mom spoke up,” Martinez said. “Because of the collaboration that followed between residents and government, I will have a place for my 20-year-old, nonverbal son who likes to swing can go. A place for my grandson who uses a wheelchair to access all the features of a playground that his typically developing peers do every day.”
Mayor Gaylor Baird also thanked the 17 community members who served on the Inclusive Outdoor Play Working Committee and assisted Parks and Recreation staff in the grant process.
“Our successful grant application demonstrates the incredible capacity of engaged residents and local government to deliver results when we work together to make life better for all in Lincoln,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said.