New playscape opens as part of project to improve Washtenaw County Human Service center

A new playscape including a play farmers market and a seesaw accessible to those with mobility challenges has been added to the Washtenaw County Human Service center, 555 Towner St. in Ypsilanti.


The playscape was funded by a $74,000 grant from the KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge in partnership with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. It represents phase one of a project to improve signage, create more recreational opportunities, and create a more welcoming atmosphere at the center, with phase two coming soon.


Local artists John Bucher and Alex Zoltowski have been tapped to create interactive sidewalk art with a fruit and veggie theme, such as a hopscotch area where the spaces are pieces of fruit, as part of phase two in July. Phase three will add wayfinding signage, to be completed by the end of August.


Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, communications manager for the Washtenaw County Health Department, says staff had been fantasizing about creating a playspace for years, and had also been hearing that the center's layout was confusing and better signage was needed.


Multiple programs, such as WIC and Community Mental Health, operate out of the center, and it's right next door to a building that houses the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Ringler-Cerniglia says many visitors have trouble understanding which building to enter, and where to go once they find the right building.


The grant allowed health department staff to tackle both goals.


"That fantasy of having a fun play space aligned with this idea that we really do need to help people find their way better and make it a better, more engaging experience when they get here," Ringler-Cerniglia says.


The health department solicited community input on the play space's design, and also asked for guidance from the staff at Washtenaw County Parks.


"We wanted to get a sense of what equipment would fit and work for that space, and also tie into a health-promoting theme," Ringler-Cerniglia says.


County staff worked to make the play equipment as accessible as possible. The four-person seesaw, for instance, can accommodate someone using a walker or a wheelchair. Play panels are located along a sidewalk so that anyone using adaptive equipment can access them as well.


Ringler-Cerniglia says all work should be done by August, and county staff hope to host a ribbon cutting and celebration in early autumn.


"It truly is a transformation of the space," Ringler-Cerniglia says. "I have a window view, and I see adults as well as kids stopping, playing, taking a few minutes to enjoy it, and it's great."


The public is invited to help paint the sidewalk July 13 and 14. No artistic skill is needed and all supplies will be provided. Interested residents may sign up for the project here.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Photos courtesy of Washtenaw County Health Department.

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