Community parks are a great place for families to get outdoors and bond, but not every play space is accessible to those with disabilities. The Port Huron Parks and Recreation Department
is working hard to change that and is currently overhauling Gratiot Park
to incorporate several new disability-friendly amenities.
Several accessible structures are currently being built for the park, including a merry-go-round, wheelchair swings, a ramped playscape, and a splash pad. The finished product, dubbed PlayABLE Walk and Roll, will be outfitted entirely with a wet pour, rubber-safe surface and is anticipated to be completed in April.
Parks and Rec Director Nancy Winzer says the park will also welcome a pavilion donated by the Hannah R Winkler Memorial Fund
. Winzer says Winkler, who had an invisible disability, loved being around kids and making a pavilion in her name was a fitting addition to the space.
“[Winkler’s parents] told us that shade was important for kids that were on medications,” Winzer says. “And we have a roller slide in there, which is good for things like static from a slide that interferes with the hearing devices that some kids need to use.”
A design plan for the PlayABLE accessible play space at Gratiot Park. Some soon-to-be added structures include wheelchair swings, a splash pad and a merry-go-round.
Port Huron Parks and Rec received support from the Community Foundation of St. Clair County
, Michigan Health & Rehabilitation Services
, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Trust Fund, and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation
to help bring PlayABLE to life. Multiple fundraisers have been held to raise funds for the disability-accessible structures and, now that it’s in the works, Winzer is looking forward to offering every kid a safe place to play and explore.
Chip Werner, Disability Network Eastern Michigan
(DNEM) Associate Director for the Thumb Region, has also expressed his pride in Port Huron’s efforts to become a more accessible community.
“We strongly feel people with disabilities should have the same civil rights, options, and control over choices in their own lives as people without disabilities do,” Werner says. “Gratiot Park exemplifies that we can create communities where people with disabilities thrive."
Winzer says that the community as well as the City of Port Huron has been very supportive of the project. She hopes that the park can become a place for able-bodied kids to interact with kids who have disabilities and see equity in action.
“I think it's great to get to meet kids of all different types, whether it be different abilities, different backgrounds, things like that,” Winzer says. “I think that this just gives you the vehicle to understand that everyone isn't the same and it's important that they foster those relationships.”
To keep up with PlayABLE’s progress, visit porthuronrec.com