Playgrounds for All
Designing truly inclusive playgrounds with ramp systems and themes
Bismarck Parks and Recreation District (BPRD) has a long history of creating inclusive playgrounds. Magical Moments Playground in Wachter Park is an award-winning playground area designed for the purpose of inclusion by a group of local citizens who wanted to create a park where everyone could play together. The main champion of the play area was a parent of a child with severe disabilities including Cerebral Palsy, seizures, asthma and a vision impairment. The design was created by a committee of stakeholders including parents of kids with disabilities, physical therapists, BPRD, and children from local schools. Magical Moments includes a toddler area on a poured in place rubber surface, a toddler area with a transportation theme, and a 5-12 age area with an extensive ramp system allowing for all modes of access, including those with mobility impairments. The park also has a swings area with a wheelchair swing and a huge sand and water area. Magical Moments set the bar very high for inclusive playgrounds!
In the past 10 years, BPRD has replaced 10 playgrounds, many have themes, all comply with the most recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and all safety standards and guidelines. Several of the newer playgrounds include musical play panels and sensory input panels for those with sensory, visual or auditory impairments.
BPRD has also created three new, fully accessible destination playgrounds; New Generations Park in northwest Bismarck, the castle playground at Shelter 1 in Lions Park in east Bismarck, and the rocket ship park at Shelter 9 in Sertoma Park. Each of the new playgrounds has its own unique theme.
BPRD chose the themes for its new playgrounds based on the location of the park, programming of the park, and the ability to create a ramp system integrated into the structure without calling out the fact that it’s a ramp. Too many playgrounds include a ramp, but unfortunately do not ramp to any true play elements. The goal at BPRD was to ensure that the ramps were part of the play theme and everyone, with or without a mobility impairment, could reach all parts of the playground and play together. A castle, a rocket ship and a fort town all fit the bill to create these truly integrated, two level play structures.
The castle and stagecoach playgrounds are both located near Shelter 1 in Lions Park. This castle is unique in that a ramp accesses the entire “second floor” of the castle. The first floor offers many play panels, so that kids and parents of all abilities can all play together on both levels. The structure designed for 2-5-year-olds is a stage coach with a transfer station to allow littler kids to get into the “royal theme”.
The playground at Shelter #9 in Sertoma Park, the “Space Exploration” playground, is one of the busiest playgrounds in Bismarck. The playground includes a ramp accessible rocket ship for ages 2-5 and a “planet” ground level structure for ages 5-12. The ramp includes a play panel on the ramp itself and the entire top level of the rocket is accessible by ramp. In addition, there are many play panels on the ground level.
New Generations Park is located in the Mustang Drive, Stagecoach Circle and Saddle Ridge Road are of northwest Bismarck. New Generations playground has a “Wild West” theme with “Fort Fun”, an accessible play structure for ages 2-5, and “Playville”, an accessible play structure for ages 5-12. Both play structures include a ramp system accessible from the main path that ramps to all of the upper level. The playground also features buffalo and pony spring riders and a “dirt road” concrete pathway complete with horse hoof and cowboy boot tracks.
BPRD has greatly expanded the play value of its playgrounds by inspiring children to use their imaginations and become an alien, a princess or a cowboy. With thoughtful design and a theme that allows for an integrated ramp system, a playground can become so much more than just swings and slides.
Click here for a link to all of BPRD’s parks to find a playground near you.