The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District will begin construction on a new gold standard in accessible playgrounds designed for children and families of all abilities at Boca Raton’s famed Sugar Sand Park, 300 South Military Trail in Boca Raton, Florida.
The current Science Playground, which opened its gates in 1995, has been widely recognized for its novel attractions and unique offerings, including a wooden fort and antique-like merry go round. Sugar Sand was named “The Best of the Best Park” in 2007.
“Over time,” says Park & Recreation Commissioner Steve Engel, “We noticed that children with mobility issues were struggling with some of the attractions in the playground. That’s when we realized they were inaccessible to children with special needs. Clearly improvements were needed.”
So with a 2014 financial commitment for the project from the District’s capital improvements budget, the Board of Commissioners retained a nationally known design firm recognized for creating universally designed playgrounds. The firm was asked to reimagine how the Science Playground might set new standards in excellence for welcoming children with all abilities to an inviting, safe and secure environment. Their findings and suggestions, now finalized, will result in the following improvements and added attractions to the existing facility:
- The addition of accessible equipment and play structures
- Replacing all existing wood chip surface with rubber surface
- Replacing all decking, railings, and balusters
- Creating a playground pathway for better orientation and safety
- Improving accessible parking
- Improving bus access and loading areas
- Improving pedestrian entry to playground
- Increasing areas for gathering of groups
- Providing accessibility to third floor levels
Efforts to improve the playground first took wing in 2013 when District Commissioners teamed with the City of Boca Raton Disability Advisory Board, led by Sandra Gottfried, to address the park’s need for universally designed playground equipment. Designers, the District, and the City’s Disability Advisory Board, set about to create new standards of excellence for the playground’s accessibility, family enjoyment and guest safety, while never losing sight of the playground’s WOW factor.
Ms. Gottfried said, “Every child should have the right to play in a magnificent playground no matter his or her physical or mental abilities. It is our hope that this playground creates an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance, utilizing play time to change a generation of children for the better.”
The newly reimagined playground will reopen to the public in the autumn of 2016.