By Valerie Baldowski
Splashes of color from new handicap-accessible playground equipment at a Hampton park invite children to climb on the ladders, slip down the slide, and invent new games.
The play equipment, according to Hampton City Councilmember Mary Ann Mitcham, was installed at R.W. "Bobby" McBrayer City Park, courtesy of volunteers, Hampton city employees, and city council members, who donated two days of their time.
Mitcham said the equipment was purchased from Southern Playgrounds in Marietta, at a cost of $49,000. The money came from the city's share of county Special Local Option Sales Tax funds.
On Monday, the team met at the park to unpack the pieces of equipment, and prepare the work site. On Tuesday, the group finished the project, after carefully assembling each piece. The park already had standard play equipment in place, but the volunteers' efforts enhanced the area, said Mitcham.
"What we're adding is what I call an 'inclusive section,' which is handicapped-accessible,'" said Mitcham. "It has the ramps that you can get up and onto, and the slides are set up for the visually impaired. The whole thing is set up to be accessible to get onto and to play with. Even the ramps going up will accommodate a wheelchair."
The new playground equipment also includes a special horizontal swing, she said. The designated equipment removes barriers for special-needs children, she said.
"You want to make your playground area to where all children can benefit," Mitcham continued. "A playground is great, but it's not been handicap-accessible before. That was our goal, to make it for all kids to play on it."
The equipment will be a "plus," said Hampton City Councilmember Henry Byrd.
"It's something we needed. There's a lot of activity going on in the park now, and a lot of kids. We didn't really have enough playground equipment for all of them," Byrd said.
The new equipment will be an amenity the entire community can use, he said. "There's so many subdivisions around here that don't have anything to keep the kids occupied, [or] give them ... a place to go play," he added.