Somewhere in the buzz of dozens of climbing, sliding and dashing children at the new Central Park playground Monday morning, 11-year-old Leo Bugni was busy testing its worthiness as the city’s first universally accessible play area.
His favorite: The “Sway Fun” wheelchair-accessible modified teeter-totter, which allows Leo to get on and rock up and down with a group of other kids and parents.
Not all areas are accessible, but the prevalence of things to do for special-needs kids — while being interesting for other children — made Christina Hooke, mom of 6-year-old special-needs child Kira, happy to have a place where her daughter could play in town.
“It’s the first time there’s been anything she could go on,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”
The old play structure at the north end of the park needed replacement due to age and safety-standard issues. The new play area includes a tall tower and slide; interactive play opportunities like kaleidoscopes, a musical climbing apparatus and balance features; and rubberized surfacing material that feels springy with each step.
The playground has a rectangular patchwork of green and yellow colors to represent the farm fields of Yolo County and complement a general agricultural theme.
The new playground doubles the size of the play area with an expansion to the north, where the “Sway Fun” and an ADA accessible water pump can pour water onto a sloping concrete sluice, complete with so-called aqua flaps that dam the water and anti-skateboard metallic bumps in the shapes of turtles. At the bottom of the sluice, hand-cranked digger scoops let kids play with the wet sand without having to get their hands dirty.
There’s also a wheelchair-accessible mock farmers market stand that Bob Bowen, Davis public relations manager, said could allow kids to imitate a stall at the nearby Farmers Market. Other agricultural touches, besides the farm water pump, are riding rockers in the form of a pig and a cow. There are two swings that have been kept from the old playground and relocated for primary-aged children.
The playground installation follows the first improvement phase of Central Park — a new ADA accessible restroom building and an ADA ramp to the lower portion of the sycamore grove.
Central Park became Davis’ first civic park in 1937, and Terry Jue, public works associate engineer, said workers discovered old utility pipes that hadn’t been mapped. Detective-like work to reveal all the relevant utilities that needed to be moved took parts of two months this spring to figure out.
“We’ve been working on this since January or February,” Jue said. “It’s really nice to see everyone using the equipment.”
Indeed, more than 50 children and parents were inside the play area Monday morning at 10 a.m., before more entered the playground in the next half-hour.
As Jue walked around the area, he pointed out engineering tidbits like plastic slides, the 3-inch-thick rubberized play surface with its 10-year estimated color lifespan and required distances between play structures. For example, a modified spinning merry-go-round called the omnispinner had to be built at least 6 feet away from a nearby tree.
“You can see the playground manufacturers have stepped up their products to ensure accessibility and safety,” he said.
As springy as the rubberized surface is, it can get hot in the sun. The city put up signs advising parents and children not to walk in bare feet. Jue said the temperature on the rubberized surface can get between 120 and 140 degrees on a sizzling day.
The playground is open now as part of a soft opening, but an official dedication ceremony is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday. For more information, call Bowen at 530-747-5816.
— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews