“All Our Children”: Inclusive Playground Open in Central Park | News

ASHLAND Ashland’s Inclusive Playground, which opened on Sunday, was an emotional event for some.

Mayor Matt Perkins recalled meeting Kailee Sharp, who has cerebral palsy. She was on the front line trying out the playground equipment.

“Her smile was so contagious, I made her a citizen ambassador for the city on the spot,” he said.

He said the groundbreaking ceremony brought out many different children.

“It wasn’t just a certain group of kids. It was all of our kids,” Perkins said. “They were so excited.”

He said inclusive playground equipment also helps parents in wheelchairs.

“It’s opportunities like this that I’m most proud of as mayor,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with how it looks and I couldn’t say enough about our parks department. They worked around the clock while the concrete set to avoid footprints and initials.

“They’ve worked their backs, and we’ll continue to upgrade the parks systems and make them the best they can be.”

He said residents of Ashland have also volunteered their time to work on the playground.

The need has been there for some time, Perkins said, noting residents approached him about an inclusive playground when he was commissioner.

“I took this to heart and promised that I would work with our commission and we never forgot that,” he said. “We put money aside at a difficult time, but we were so attached to it that we knew good things would happen.”

The included play equipment allows a person in a wheelchair to ride the merry-go-round or use the monkey bars without assistance.

“The key ingredient is that the surface is soft, so it won’t hurt anyone if you fall,” Perkins said. “Each piece of equipment is separate so you can access each piece if you have a wheelchair.”

He said children with autism will benefit from the sensory garden, which is ongoing.

“These people have a whole different set of needs and concerns,” he said. “Sometimes they have trouble with loud sounds. This new sensory garden is a bit across from Central Park. It was useful, so it would be calmer, and the kinds of things kids need for that are for them. It’s not the standard playground gear you’d see, but something that would excite them visually and textually.

He said he hopes it will be completed this month, which is Autism Awareness Month.

Commissioner Marty Gute has been involved in the project from the start.

“I have friends who have kids who could never play in one of these facilities and it broke my heart,” he said of the standard play area, noting that many parents commented on the need for a facility for other children.

“It was really a great day at Ashland to see these kids of all abilities being able to swing and be able to play on all these things,” Gute said, noting that he looks forward to the sensory garden being completed.

Commissioner Amanda Clark said opening the playground was an exciting experience.

“It’s something we needed for our park and I’m happy to be part of a commission trying to make these things happen,” Clark said.

Seeing the kids enjoying the park was the highlight, she said.

“When we cut the ribbon, several children stood with us, because ultimately it’s theirs,” she said. “After the cutting, each of these little kids looked at us like, ‘Can we play now?’ and we said, ‘Sure, sure, go ahead.’ Their response was fantastic. They ran away.”

Perkins said he is proud of the accomplishment.

“Everybody came together on that,” he said. “I think it was just up in the stars. It was a thing of God, because the huge cost of it was subsidized – without the subsidy, I don’t know if we could have done it.

The total cost of the playground was $350,000; the city received $175,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which the city matched.

(606) 326-2661 |

[email protected]

Harold B. McConnell