Make it a play date - at the Universal PlaygroundThe Universal Playground - one that is accessible to children of all ability levels - is the newest attraction on the Red Wing parks scene.
The Universal Playground - one that is accessible to children of all ability levels - is the newest attraction on the Red Wing parks scene.
The barrier-free playground opened in October 2008 in Colvill Park, just off Highway 61/East Seventh Street on the east side of Red Wing.
It exists because two dedicated, committed moms wanted to make sure their children and all other disabled youngsters have a fun, safe place to play. Both Audra Quandt and Heather Marx have children with cerebral palsy.
They had a vision of an accessible playground and set about making that dream come true. Spearheading the effort, they marshaled support from everyone from the Red Wing City Council, School Board and Goodhue County Board to physical therapists, clubs and the community.
In less than a year, with the help of businesses and charities as well as governments and individuals, they had raised more than $500,000 to purchase the equipment. Volunteers and Sentence to Service crews helped assemble it.
The new playground has numerous special features.
Rubber tiles: Semi-soft rubber tiles lie underneath all the equipment. They are firm enough to drive a wheelchair across yet cushioned enough to absorb a child's fall.
Ramps: The equipment is ramped all the way to its highest level, so children - and adults - who use wheelchairs or walkers can get to the top.
Swings: Some swings at the playground have full seats and straps that can secure a child who may have difficulty balancing in a standard swing.
Teeter-totter: The playground's four-child teeter-totter features two seats that have backrests and straps, allowing children with limited muscle control to teeter-totter without fear of falling.
Play panels: Throughout the playground are panels designed for children with varying sensory needs. One panel features Braille, and others have pictorials that allow non-verbal children to communicate.
Pods and bongo drums: The playground's bongo drums encourage children to make music. The setup is considered especially appealing to autistic children, who can climb inside pods when they need some alone time.
Big slides: The playground has many slides. Three of them are specially designed to be larger so that a parent can slide down them with a child on their lap.
Stainless steel slide: When a child slides down a plastic slide it causes static electricity. That electricity can fry the inner workings of cochlear implants — a small electronic device used by some people with hearing impairments. The metal slide doesn't create static electricity.