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By early summer of this year, Harlingen will have three special needs/all-access playgrounds open to the community at Lon C. Hill Park, Victor Park and Pendleton Park.
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The three all-access playgrounds in Harlingen are currently under construction and each will be done in time for summertime play and enjoyment.
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The parks will have special access ramps, adaptive swings, and spongy surfaces with low inclines.
The thrill and enjoyment children feel when playing at city parks is a timeless gift a community can give to its youth.
For too long, that joy did not extend to children with special needs as disabilities limited their access to traditional parks with the usual array of swings, slides and merry-go-rounds.
Nationally, a movement has been afoot to give special needs children the sort of modified playgrounds that are barrier free and have equipment and surfaces suited to youngsters with disabilities. That movement is coming to Harlingen soon.
By early summer of this year, Harlingen will have three special needs/all-access playgrounds open to the community at Lon C. Hill Park, Victor Park and Pendleton Park. They will be the first of their kind in the Rio Grande Valley.
Like other such parks around the country, the Harlingen parks will have special access ramps, adaptive swings, and spongy surfaces with low inclines. The 125-foot by 100-foot playgrounds will include 8-foot high decks. A child in a wheelchair will be able to go from ground level to the top of the unit without needing to stand or walk.
“These playgrounds are going to be a great addition to our community,” said Javier Mendez, the director of parks and recreation for Harlingen. “There’s so much innovative equipment coming out, and we’re ahead of the curve in our area in making these playgrounds available to our community.”
The special access playgrounds will feature numerous components that mirror those seen nationally. Wheelchair-accessible “gliders” will allow special needs children to swing back and forth like traditional park swings. “Spinners” that mimic merry-go-rounds will be another feature of the Harlingen parks. There will also be “roller tables” that will provide stimulation to help children develop their sensory receptors. Playground safety surfaces will allow easy access for individuals using mobility devices.
Fixed musical instruments attached to the playgrounds will encourage movement and creativity. Playground panels with the alphabet in sign language will stimulate learning.
“The playgrounds will be great for the children and their parents,” Mendez said. “I know they will attract a lot of families in Harlingen and the surrounding area.”
The three all-access playgrounds in Harlingen are currently under construction and each will be done in time for summertime play and enjoyment. The city is partnering with the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District on the cost and use of the special access playgrounds at Victor Park and Pendleton Park. Special needs students from HCISD will use the two parks as part of their curriculum.
Grants from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation and Harlingen attorney Rollin Koppel along with contributions from the Harlingen Sunrise Rotary were pivotal in helping to make the $400,000-plus playgrounds possible for the community.
The special needs playgrounds will be open to all children. The sharing of these facilities between kids with and without disabilities highlights the inclusiveness of these playgrounds, Mendez said.
“We want all kids to join each other and enjoy these parks,” he said.
By Ric Cavazos