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Inclusive playground a hit at Anson Park

T-R PHOTO BY JOE FISHER — Anson Park’s new inclusive playground equipment gives children with a variety of physical abilities more options to play, including a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, sensory boards and a new swing.

Members of the 2019 Iowa Valley Leadership class were eager to officially celebrate the installation of inclusive playground equipment at Anson Park on Wednesday.

The equipment has been in place since the spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic and derecho delayed the ribbon cutting ceremony until this week.

While the ribbon cutting was on hold, children have still been enjoying all the new equipment has to offer.

“It was a full house on one of the little bit warmer days down there,” said Heidi Draisey, member of the Iowa Valley Leadership class of 2019.

The new equipment includes variations on playground staples like the merry-go-round which provides more accessibility to children with a variety of differing physical abilities. For instance, the merry-go-round is flush with the ground to allow a wheelchair on board. Wheelchairs can be secured while allowing room for more children to ride it.

There are also sensory boards which include musical instruments like drums and a xylophone as well as tactile surfaces.

The third piece of equipment is a swing, which instead of a contoured seat, has a soft, flat seat suspended by cables which hang at a sharper angle.

A soft rubber surface was installed around the equipment which provides safety and the ability for wheelchairs and other assistive mobility devices to move across the playground comfortably.

Iowa Valley Leadership’s 2019 class raised about $45,000 through grants, donations and fundraising events to purchase and install the equipment.

The program, co-sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce and Iowa Valley Continuing Education, is aimed at developing community leaders through service. Each year, the class chooses a project that contributes to the community.

“This really shined through,” Draisey said. “The support of the class members and inspiration we got from fellow parents as well as parents that have children that would enjoy these pieces of equipment — we’re very proud of it.”

Leader of the project, Andrew Pool, said his team of 24 IVL class members was ready to celebrate the unveiling of the park right before the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to public gatherings.

“Then as things just started to open back up and people were feeling more comfortable being outdoors we get hit by hopefully a once in a lifetime natural event,” he said of the derecho.

Pool said Anson Park was chosen as the site for the inclusive playground because the park was already undergoing updates related to restroom and parking accessibility.

The inclusive playground at Anson Park is the only one of its kind in the area. Pool said the next nearest inclusive playground is Ankeny Miracle Park.

“It’s bigger than the original scope we thought of,” said Kathleen Brown, Marshalltown Community College registrar. “I hope the community is as excited about it as we are.”

Contact Joe Fisher at 641-753-6611 or jfisher@timesrepublican.com

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