Saturday, May 7, 2011

Three Chicago area parks, playgrounds to become ADA accessible

From the TribLocal:

Recreation, Evergreen and Melas (pictured) parks will see new playground and picnic equipment by July’s end, but residents will have to endure short bouts of construction in the meantime.

At each of the parks, construction crews will tear up the old equipment starting in mid-May and install two different sets of playground equipment, targeting two age groups: 2 to 5 and 5 to 12. Crews will start at Recreation Park and, once completed, move to Evergreen and Melas.

Slides, swings and modern elements such as climbing walls, a tall slide tower and a dragonfly re-imagined as a teeter totter are expected to debut in the parks by Aug. 1.

District officials try to budget enough money to fix up three parks each year. This year, the park district is spending $417,166 on the improvements, which is about $1,000 under its budget.

The park district tries to update its equipment every 10 to 15 years to ensure it’s up to standards and is Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, park planner Stephanie Stevens said.

Concrete pathways can lead those with disabilities up to the park, and a new type of tile allows people with disabilities to access some equipment.

“One of the big things in all three of these parks is SoftTiles, creating a accessible access into the parks and playground,” said John Simonaitis, president of Parkreation, Inc., which designed the Recreation Park playground. “It’s a rubber-type surface that interlocks with other tiles – it’s kind of neat.”

Equipment design was born out of public meetings in February and March for Evergreen and Recreation Park, but no meetings were held at Melas Park due to its remote location, officials said. Melas Park is located in Mount Prospect, but operated by the Arlington Heights Park District through a lease agreement.

At Evergreen, residents requested to keep the sandbox and add monkey bars, which were incorporated in the final design, Stevens said. At Recreation Park meetings, attendees suggested more swings.

On top of the new equipment, the park district will build new picnic areas, adjacent to the playgrounds, in order to meet ADA standards.

A small concrete picnic area with two accessible picnic tables and bench will be installed at Recreation Park for a total of $6,816. Evergreen Park will see one new picnic table, four benches and a new ADA-acceptable pathway for $24,094. Melas Park’s proposed construction includes $14,502 for picnic grove surfacing, two tables and a bench.

With this summer’s changes, the entire chain of park district parks are almost up to complete ADA compliance, Stevens said.