Pinellas County’s new ADA accessible playgrounds feature inclusive design

Matthew Eberius, project manager for the county’s Parks and Resources Conservation Management Department, explains why inclusive design features make the new playgrounds at Boca Ciega Millennium Park and John Chesnut Sr. Park good for children of all abilities.

Children of all abilities can have fun at special playgrounds now open at two Pinellas County parks.

New playgrounds opened at Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole and John Chesnut Sr. Park in Palm Harbor on March 23. Both have ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible equipment suitable for children ages 2-12. Both offer inclusive play.

“The two new inclusive playgrounds in Pinellas have design elements that allow children of all abilities, whether it is a mental disability or physical disability or even a social disability, to join in and play,” said Matthew Eberius, project manager for the county’s Parks and Resources Conservation Management Department.

Eberius described some of the parks’ “cool features,” including some that are musical and others that cause children to explore with their minds.

“Some things turn and make noise,” he said. “There are things that are colorful and all kinds of different features for kids to poke and prod at here at the playground.”

Eberius says inclusive design is important, not just in terms of ADA accessibility, but because it deals with children’s social and mental environment.

“It’s important for a child to come to the playground, not just to run around and swing on a swing like they’re used to or maybe go down a slide,” he said. “But there are elements on the playground that lets them interact with other children in a different way.”

He said the new playground equipment is educational and helps children socially.

“Some of the challenge things you’ll see on the playground that spin forces kids to work together as a team and interact with each other,” he said.

The new playground equipment at both parks was paid for with Penny for Pinellas tax money.

The fully accessible structures have a poured rubber surface for easier mobility and offer barrier-free interaction.

The playgrounds have been designated as National Demonstration Sites by Playcore, headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Playcore is an outdoor play manufacturer that recognizes inclusive playgrounds as model sites for other park agencies in the U.S.

Eberius said more inclusive playgrounds would be added in the future as part of the regular replacement process.

“You’ll see new inclusive design brought into all your county parks with playgrounds,” he said.

Boca Ciega Millennium Park is at 12410 74th Ave. N., Seminole. John Chesnut Sr. Park is at 2200 East Lake Road, Palm Harbor. County parks are open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk.

For more information, visit www.pinellascounty.org/parks_conservation/.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.