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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2003

Accessible equipment earns plaudits

“All last summer I was aching to take him to a park. What else do you do in the summer except go to the park?” said Ginny Cook, the mother of the partially paralyzed child.

Mark was one of dozens of people, young and old, who participated in the official dedication yesterday of the new play area at Walbridge Park on Broadway across from the Toledo Zoo.

Mayor Jack Ford, arts consultant Susan Reams, and other dignitaries clipped a ribbon to officially open what Mr. Ford hopes will become the first of several “destination parks” developed under his administration.

Marcus Meyers, 14, of Holland, enjoys the dedication of the disabled-accessible playground at Walbridge Park with his stepmother, Nikki. Marcus Meyers, 14, of Holland, enjoys the dedication of the disabled-accessible playground at Walbridge Park with his stepmother, Nikki.

The mayor and Mrs. Reams led the effort to raise most of the $266,000 construction cost from private sources.

“We believe this will become a model, not only for Toledo but in other parts of the state,” Mr. Ford said. “People will come to play without restriction and with other children like never before.”

The play set was designed to make it possible for children who use wheelchairs, or parents who use wheelchairs, to have the kind of fun denied them in a typical playground.

In place of the usual steps and climbing bars, the new play set has a broad ramp that gradually rises off the ground and winds around. The ground surface is a cushioned rubberized surface. The play set is connected by concrete paths to parking lots, picnic areas, and other walking paths at the park.

Nearby is an accessible swing set, although it cannot yet accommodate wheelchairs. Steve Day, the city's chief landscape architect, said the University of Toledo is working on a wheelchair swing as part of an engineering project.

Also nearby are several new picnic tables with spaces for wheelchairs.

Medical College of Ohio also is expected to use the park as part of a rehabilitation program.

Mothers, children, and program aides were enthusiastic.

Mrs. Cook said her son is paralyzed below the waist, and was becoming too big for her to carry up play sets.

“We will be here quite often. My son can wheel himself all the way to the top. That means so much,” Mrs. Cook said.

Another boy, whose only mobility is achieved by using his mouth to operate and steer his electric wheelchair, rode up and down the ramps.

“It's fun,” said D.J. Huggins, 13. Recreation aide James McIntyre said, “I haven't been able to get him off it. He keeps saying, `Can I go to play, James?'”

The set was built with $56,000 from the city's capital improvement fund and $75,000 from the Anna C. Mott Trust Fund, along with contributions from the Walbridge Park Advisory Board and private individuals.

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