The Summerville town council unanimously approved $150,000 to go towards an all inclusive playground in Saul Alexander Park during the monthly meeting on March 11.
The vision for this inclusive playground began long ago, as members of the ten-year-old Summerville Miracle league, a program working to enhance the lives of those with special needs, began noticing that some children were unable to play on the equipment at the park.
Saul Alexander Park, located across the street from the baseball field where Miracle league hosts a no-barriers-to-the-game adult and children's baseball league, was in need of updates.
Steve Doniger, the Executive Director of DREAM and a board member of the Miracle League, says that members began campaigning to raise money in an effort to build an ‘extraordinary play feature’ that would allow all kids at every level and every need to have the ability to play together. The playground plans to incorporate ramps and tactiles to name a few.
Amy Evans, Parks and Recreation Superintendent, worked with the Charleston County parks system for nearly 15 years prior to transitioning to work with the town of Summerville in February 2020.
Shortly after that, she says the Summerville Miracle League reached out to her to share their hopes of revamping and expanding on the playground to allow all children to play. Now, she has been working alongside members to see the park into fruition.
“I am very passionate about creating play spaces that are inclusive and so it was very exciting for me and we started collaborating and working on the project together,” Evans said.
Working in conjunction with the parks department, Doniger says that the two raised just over $206,000. With the approved funding from the council last night, Doniger is hopeful that they will begin putting together plans and contacting the company that will be awarded a bid to start work.
As a parent, Evans explained that she feels it is important that all children are given the opportunity to benefit from the social and emotional growth that is spurred from play. The park plans to cater towards children with developmental, sensory impaired and physical disabilities.
“Play is powerful, not everybody realizes how powerful it can be,” Evans said. “Having the opportunity to design a playground like this where children of all abilities can enjoy it and participate is just going to have lasting effects on all children who are able to come visit the park.”
Doniger says that the Miracle League serves well over a 100-plus families in the area, all of which he hopes profit from the playground renovations. As many children have suffered from a year of distanced learning and play, Doniger is optimistic that the playground will serve as a celebration for the entire community.
“Now that we are hopefully coming out of Covid-19, coming out of the atmosphere of staying at home and finding opportunities to come out in a safe and mindful way, this is a great celebration, kind of a rebirth if you will, of that park,” Doniger said.
Members involved in the playground project expressed their gratitude for Mayor Warring and the council’s support, the state funding and the Dorchester County Parks and Recreation for working with them in their efforts. Evans described the project as a perfect example of what can happen when government private entities work together towards the common vision. She considers this project to be a huge win for the residents of Summerville.
“We have a lot of outdoor parks and with Covid we have seen just an incredible spike of usage from our athletic programs to just general usage,” Evans said. “I think this is going to be an exceptional park unlike anything Summerville has,” Evans said.