FORT SMITH, Ark. — All parks and playgrounds in Fort Smith are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines but the city has been working to make these locations inclusive.
Currently, there are four inclusive parks in Fort Smith, with Martin Luther King Jr. Park becoming the latest. These inclusive parks take ADA guidelines a step further and allow everyone to use the parks and their features, including those with special needs.
The new features at MLK Jr. Park include a rubber play surface, a large sun canopy providing shade, and features that allow everyone to enjoy.
Friday, staff and more than 30 kids from the Jeffry’s Boys & Girls Club made a trip to enjoy the park and all the new features.
“It was a spontaneous idea,” says Jujuan Thorne, a child mentor at Jeffry’s Boys & Girls Club. “We thought of it while we was sitting at the front desk, we was like, ‘hey, you know what, let’s take them to MLK Park’ and then we was like this was a great idea so we wouldn’t have to stay at the Boys and Girls Club so we just thought of something different.”
No matter your age, Thorne says the new park is the perfect place for anyone to play like a kid again.
“Honestly, it’s a lot of fun because I get to enjoy watching the kids be happy, you know, I like making them happy, like seeing them become festive and just like, over-joyous,” said Thorne.
Dividing the playground is a chain link fence. Just on the other side – a splash pad to cool off when things get too hot.
Between the splash pad and the inclusive features, Thorne believes it was a great way to think of everyone.
“I think it’s very important for those because, you know, it allows them to do the things they can do and enjoy themselves while doing it,” said Thorne. “Even if they do have disabilities or not, they’re able to still be a kid and enjoy their childhood.”
The project cost nearly half a million dollars to complete and took several months to open. However, that didn’t stop the kids from Jeffry’s Boys & Girls Club from playing and enjoying themselves, Friday afternoon.
“It’s super-duper fun,” exclaimed Jaylinn, a Boys and Girls Club kid. “You get to just like hang out with your friends and have a good time.”
Work is underway at Creekmore Park in Fort Smith as well. Once complete, it will also become an inclusive park.
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