Creating Inviting and Accessible Playgrounds for Children of All Abilities in Boise

Playgrounds are some of the first places where children learn to engage, interact and explore. They can spark imagination, inspire creative play and encourage important socialization. But for some children, the traditional playground is a place full of insurmountable obstacles. They encounter stairs they can’t climb – or are prevented from even reaching the equipment due to bark chips or uneven ground covering their mobility device can’t navigate. This can be frustrating for children and their parents looking for an outdoor outlet.

At Boise Parks and Recreation, we are committed to providing places for children of all abilities to learn, play and grow. We want our youngest residents to experience a level playing field on the playground, with a variety of amenities that can stimulate the senses and encourage all ages to discover new things. That’s why we’ve committed to improving playgrounds across Boise to make them more accessible.

“It’s critical and imperative to find ways to make all of our residents, no matter their age or ability, feel welcome and included,” said Doug Holloway, Boise Parks and Recreation director. “Making playground equipment accessible and inclusive is one example of our commitment to creating a city for everyone.”

These improvements to playgrounds do come at a cost.  Installing a generational swing as opposed to a traditional one costs, on average, 13 times more. Replacing bark chips with safer, mobility device friendly bonded rubber surface material costs $17-$20 per square foot, when wood chips only costs around $3-5 per square foot.

City of Boise leadership believes the quality of life these improvements provide for children are well worth the investment. After seeing the popularity of the accessible playground and amenities at parks like Cottonwood in west Boise, the city has continued to invest in these important upgrades.

“We’re grateful to Mayor Lauren McLean and Boise City Council for supporting these projects and the funding it takes to make them a reality,” added Holloway. “This work will benefit Boise children for generations to come.”

In 2020, Boise Parks and Recreation dedicated $1.9 million in funding to upgrade seven playgrounds across the city. Hobble Creek, Cassia and Phillippi Park playgrounds were replaced with new accessible equipment and bonded rubber surface material was installed. Additionally, five other park playgrounds received new bonded rubber surface material: Ann Morrison Park, Camel’s Back Park, Castle Hills Park, Morris Hill Park and Simplot Sports Complex. Simplot also received new accessible equipment for children ages two to five-years-old.

Playground equipment that is accessible and inclusive includes ramps providing access to and from play structures, climbing walls and finger mazes to promote tactile play, bells for auditory stimulation, inclusive motion spinners to promote social play and adaptive swings, among other amenities. Another popular piece of equipment modified to meet the needs of children of all abilities is the zip line. The one that debuted at Cottonwood Park in 2019 is more than 100 feet long.

As new park playgrounds are built in the coming years, every effort will be made to incorporate accessible amenities and equipment. In addition, as playgrounds are retired or upgraded, special attention will be paid to how they can be improved to provide opportunities for children of all abilities.

There are more than 50 playgrounds at parks across Boise and a growing number of them feature inclusive and accessible elements. To learn more, visit the Boise Parks and Recreation web page.

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