Duncan Mullis

All-inclusive Playground at Montgomery Village

All families rejoice and see the next hot stop for children to be all-inclusive and to expand their imaginations.

Montgomery Village’s new playground at the Apple Ridge Recreation Area, which opened July 1, was the result of months of community meetings with input from parents of children with disabilities. The board of directors gave the final go-ahead to the designs developed by these parents and the Recreation Committee, who worked with various contractors. The budget came from the Capital Contribution Fee, funded through property sales in Montgomery Village.

Montgomery County’s Alison Danielson and Lisa Witzler gave input at a community meeting where both were adamant that the playground be inclusive for their children with disabilities. They worked together to evaluate the different proposed structures and picked their favorites with the staff at Montgomery Village.

The playground’s theme is an island, where the core of the playground is in the “island” with a sand-colored surface and palm trees surrounding it, and a darker blue “water” is where the kids go out to sea.

The playground’s importance is due to parents who have had to travel out of their way to other counties to let their children with disabilities play at all-inclusive playgrounds. Now parents can remain in the county and attract a new group of children to play together.

An important component for the playground to be inclusive for all children, according to Danielson, is the rubberized surfacing, which makes mobility smoother for wheelchair-users and strollers, and protects children from falling or lessens the blow upon impact. This is in contrast to mulch, the common surface on playgrounds. The other major difference is that there are more ramps than stairs for those who have mobility issues. This is so everybody can play together wherever they desire, without worrying about being excluded.

Amy Roswurm was the playground’s project manager. She obtained a certification for playground safety prior to spearheading the project, though she says researching for an all-inclusive playground required a lot of outside scrutiny to see what was accessible for everybody.

Roswurm emphasized the importance of this playground being universal for children, to “let everybody play side-by-side.” One example of this is that the monkey bars and therapeutic rings section are next to one another so nobody feels left out.

Another is the pirate ship, known as the “Rock-n-Ship.” Multiple children stand on the ship and can rock it back and forth; one comparison is a teeter-totter, but for a group of children rather than two. The cooperative element is that the kids are working together as a team to control the ship.

The playground’s reception has been positive, with parents saying it’s great for their children when they come in the mornings. One mom in particular, according to Roswurm, noted that she enjoyed seeing her children playing with the temperature and matching game features at the weather station. It also shows a weather cycle, which teaches children about how water is recycled in the air to form rain and snow from the clouds.

I have to say, among my favorite memories playing on the playground when I was a kid was climbing to the top and pretending to be king of the playground. I looked down on other kids who would play in my “kingdom” and pretend to protect the village from bad guys and dragons. Now, for those who want to climb to the top and become kings and queens, everybody can hold domain over their own kingdoms in their minds.

Despite the size of the playground being on the small side, its heart and scope make up to provide a feeling of community, friendship and fun.

The park is located at the Apple Ridge Recreation Area: 10101 Apple Ridge Road, Montgomery Village, Md. 20886. It is open for anyone to use.