Friday, December 31, 2004

Cumberland officials dedicate first all-abilities playground
[from Joyce Vanaman, The Press of Atlantic City, December 31, 2004]

MILLVILLE - LuAnn Parkin scooted around the bright red, blue and yellow playground equipment at Waltman Park on Thursday afternoon with a big smile.

Parkin, the vice chairwoman of the Cumberland County Disabled Advisory Council to the county Board of Freeholders, who has multiple sclerosis, was the first "official user" of the equipment after the ribbon-cutting by public officials, including David Grennon, director of the county Office for the Disabled.

Earlier, Maria Jiminez, 11, and her 21/2-year-old sister, Juanita, were swinging and sliding and having fun.

"The All-Abilities Playground here in Waltman Park is the first of its kind in our area," said Grennon, who represented Sandra Rosen of Vineland, council chairwoman. Rosen, who had the vision for the playground and has been its chief advocate, was ill and couldn't attend, but had written the message.

"The playground is a place where children with disabilities can interact and play with children without disabilities in an integrated setting," Grennon said. "This playground is not just for children. The accessibility features of the playground allow moms, dads, grandparents and others with disabilities to join in the fun along with the children."

The All-Abilities Playground incorporates various activities that are inter-connected by ramps and decks. The ground cover beneath the playground structure is made of a poured recycled rubber material that allows a cushion if a child falls, but also provides a firm surface that wheelchairs can maneuver over easily, Grennon explained.

Assemblyman Jack Gibson, R-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, commented that from an engineering standpoint it is one of the finest surfaces he has seen. The accessible features of the All-Abilities Playground go beyond the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, which some believe have a lot of room for improvement, Grennon noted.

Besides improving recreational opportunities for all children, it will also raise disability awareness and promote positive attitudes about children with disabilities among their peers, according to Grennon.

The playground is the product of four years of discussion and planning by the Disabled Advisory Council, the Cumberland County Office for the Disabled, the city of Millville, the Cumberland County Improvement Authority and others.

Grennon recognized the agencies and people involved in making the playground a reality. He noted that Rich Romanik, Millville recreation department superintendent, obtained a $42,000 state grant. The county improvement authority, headed by Steven Wymbs, donated $50,000 each to Millville, Vineland and Bridgeton; a private donor gave Millville $1,000; and the city of Millville provided in-kind services through the Department of Parks and Public Property.

Also present were Mayor Jim Quinn, Freeholder Jane Christy and Commissioner Tim Shannon, all of Millville; Assemblymen Jeff Van Drew, D-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, and Gibson, both of Cape May County.

Grennon also pointed out that the Disabled Advisory Council will work with John Polaha of the Vineland Recreation Department in the next few months to plan for the All-Abilities Playground in Vineland. It is anticipated that will be dedicated in the coming year.

Contact Joyce Vanaman, staff writer at The Press of Atlantic City
email -
phone - (856) 825-2303


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