Baker City’s newest playground, an “all-inclusive” design that will be accessible to children in wheelchairs and open to all, is scheduled to be built May 11-15 at Geiser-Pollman Park.
The city recently received a $23,010 grant from the Ford Family Foundation that brings the budget to the full estimated cost of $308,000, said Joyce Bornstedt, the city’s technical administrative supervisor.
The city also hopes to receive a $5,000 grant from Northwest Farm Credit Services, Bornstedt said.
Earlier grants, the largest being $164,000 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, allowed the city to order playground equipment late last year.
Most of that equipment has arrived and is in storage, Bornstedt said.
The artificial turf surface in the new playground, which will overlay a shock-absorbing rubber layer, will be sent to Baker City just before the installation contractor arrives, Bornstedt said.
(That part of the park now has wood chips, which aren’t compatible with wheelchairs and walkers.)
The new playground surface will be similar to what’s in place under the playground equipment that was installed at Geiser-Pollman in May 2014.
The all-inclusive play equipment will be installed to the south of the current playground, in the area just north of Madison Street that’s underlain now by wood chips.
City crews have removed the tall metal swing structure that has been in the park for about a century. It no longer meets safety standards, Bornstedt said.
Workers also removed the three metal-lattice play domes, a structure that includes two short slides, and the longer, taller single slide.
The three play structures between the tall swings and the 2014 playground are still in good shape and the structures, installed around 1993, also meet current safety standards, Bornstedt said.
She hopes to move those structures to the city’s South Baker Park between Colorado Street and Canal Avenue, just east of Highway 7.
Baker City’s new all-inclusive playground has been chosen as a national demonstration site by PlayCore, a company that makes playground equipment.
The city’s goal throughout the project has been to build a playground where all kids, regardless of their physical abilities, can play “side by side,” Bornstedt said.
Although the new toys are designed to accommodate children who use wheelchairs or have other mobility issues, the new equipment will be suitable for all children, she said.
“We want to encourage that interaction so we don’t have that us versus them mentality,” Bornstedt said.
Details on some of the individual components of the new playground:
• A “whirl” — the new word for a merry-go-round — is designed so wheelchairs can be rolled onto it
• An “infinity Bowl” is a circular dish that spins as children move on it
• A “rocking raft” toy, which as its name implies rocks to and fro, will have a wheelchair ramp
• A table toy, like several other pieces, is set at a height to make it easier for children to move from a wheelchair onto the toy. This piece has rollers that allow kids to use their arms to pull themselves back and forth
• A seesaw with four seats, each with handles, also set at a proper height for kids to transfer from a wheelchair
• An arch climber toy with hand grips
• A 53-foot-long zip line that includes a seat, so kids don’t have to hold on with just their hands
• A set of swings, including two with “companion” seats allowing a parent or guardian to accompany a child who sits in a specially designed seat.
Bornstedt said the city will be installing two “zero-G” swings in the swing set in the 2014 playground section, and moving two conventional swings from that area to the new all-inclusive swing set.
The idea, she said, is to encourage kids of all abilities to use both areas and to play with each other.
The playground installed in 2014 will remain open at most times during work on the new section, although there could be temporary closures when crews pour a concrete pad at the northeast corner of the new playground area.