KIDSPOT PROJECT MOVES FORWARD
South Bergenite - 9/14/2017
RUTHERFORD - For Councilwoman Stephanie McGowan, making Rutherford's playgrounds more accessible is personal. As the mother of twins, one diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism, she spent time going to visit other communities that offered more inclusive options so they could play together.
Rutherford is moving forward with plans to make Kidspot an accessible playground to accommodate the play needs of every child.
In August, Neglia Engineering was awarded at $7,338 the engineering study and designs contract to plan the upgrade to the playground.
"[Kidspot] is the most-used playground in the borough, certainly while the fields are in use. It's a lovely location but there really is no inclusiveness there so we are working toward that," McGowan said.
Councilman Tom Mullahey, liaison to the recreation advisory board, agreed that that playground would be a good option for accessibility as it flanked by ball fields. The playground will be replaced entirely.
"The playground is toward the end of its lifespan and it is not accessible. We can do better and the kids that use the playground deserve better," Mullahey said.
Neglia Engineering is finalizing bid specifications and will present them to Access for All and the Recreation Advisory Board for review. If approved by the board, the plans will go to the council to open bidding on the actual work, which includes apparatus replacement and construction.
"We are in the planning stage with Neglia to redevelop the area for littlest guys to older kids and make it compatable for wheelchairs," McGowan said. "We want to enable all children of all abilities to enjoy the playground and have to make sure the surface and the environment is safe for everyone."
This project will not be cheap. McGowan estimates that similar playgrounds have cost "several hundred thousand dollars in other communities." Midland Park built an all-access playground last year for $150,000. Lodi has one in the works at the same cost.
Surfacing is where the main cost lies.
"Playground surfacing is really expensive. People think it is a swing or monkey bars [that costs so much], but it's the flooring," McGowan said.
Funds have been set aside over several years for repurposing the playground, which McGowan hopes to use. She would not comment on how much has been set aside. If bids come in too high, it may be broken up into two phases, she said. Grants are another possibility.
The borough will look at the preliminary drawings and determine the feasibility. Both the recreation and the Access for All departments will have input.
Utilizing the space is no small feat either. McGowan brought the project to the Bergen County Advisory Board for Disability Services for advice on redeveloping the existing area because it doesn't lend itself to accessibility. The ground is uneven and with the exception of one swing there is nothing that can be made adaptable, she said.
"I respectfully don't think people realize it's not just adding a ramp. Just allowing kids to go up a ramp doesn't let them play and let others play with them," McGowan said.
Rutherford already offers soccer and basketball Dawgs programs, which is open to children with special needs.
"We want to set the bar and are excited to promote a space that becomes exemplar for an inclusive community," McGowan said.