WALNUT CREEK -- A first of its kind all-abilities playground in a city park is getting closer to reality.
The playground, which would accommodate disabled children, has been on the city's wish list for the past few years. A potential location for the playground, along with a recommendation to the City Council, will be discussed at Monday's 7 p.m. Park, Recreation and Open Space Commission meeting, 1666 N. Main St.
The council allocated $350,000 in the current two-year budget specifically for an all-abilities playground. Such a playground would include soft flooring to accommodate wheelchairs rather than sawdust, "sound and sensory equipment, ramping systems, shade structures, free play areas, hills and mounds, climbing equipment ... (and) parking upgrades," said Mike Vickers, the city's public services manager.
A committee of two commissioners, an architect, the park manager and a design consultant toured several all-abilities playgrounds to review different features, and then developed criteria to help determine which Walnut Creek park would be the best place for it. The committee narrowed the proposed sites to Arbolado Upper, Arbolado Lower, Heather Farm and Larkey parks, and ultimately recommended Heather Farm. It has the necessary space requirements, a good location and restrooms close enough to the current play structures, according to an agenda report on the issue.
The funding for Walnut Creek's all-ability playground comes from Measure WW, a regional park bond measure approved by East Bay voters in 2008. The money can only be used for acquisition or development of park lands and facilities. Walnut Creek's share is $2.9 million, which must be used by December 2018 -- $400,000 has already been spent to buy open space.
Once the commission makes a recommendation, it will likely go in May to the City Council, with construction phases starting in 2014, Vickers said.
This type of playground has been done in other cities. Matteo's Dream in Concord was one of the first all-abilities parks, built in 2007 and costing $770,000; much of that money was donated.
The city is spending $500,000 to bring all other city parks and playgrounds up to safety and federal disability compliance within the next several years, as required by law.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.