Tri-City children with disabilities soon could be frolicking at a new Richland playground designed with them in mind.
Richland's Parks and Recreation Department is planning the area's first "inclusive" playground incorporating play equipment specifically designed for children with physical and developmental disabilities -- but that children of all abilities will have fun using.
"It will be the Mid-Columbia's first all-accessible playground," said Dave Bryant, Richland senior park planner.
The first pieces of equipment will be installed Saturday by volunteers as part of Mid-Columbia Make A Difference Day, and volunteers have raised about half of the $60,000 cost of the first phase, Bryant said.
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That includes a $10,000 donation from Numerica Credit Union announced last week by the Make A Difference Day Committee.
Bryant said the play equipment and structures are designed to be accessed from the ground without ramps or steps, or used from a height that can accommodate children in wheelchairs.
Park planners also thought about ways to incorporate play for children with autism or other types of disabilities.
The playground is designed to let children play in a way that evokes a variety of senses -- whether it's motion in a contraption called a "sway fun glider" that lets children get on board and then rock the structure back and forth, or hearing with a sensory panel that lets children play with music.
"Even if they are sight-impaired, they can get the sensory experience," Bryant said.
The first phase involves installing several play structures, including the sway fun glider, sensory panel, elevated sand table, splash circuit water table, motion spring platform, spinner and an "oodle swing" -- like a big tire swing that can hold several children at once.
Bryant expects most of the work for the first phase will be done Saturday, and the playground should be open for romps and revelry within a month.
During the second phase, the city will install larger play structures made up of piped arches with an array of equipment and apparatuses, sort of like a jungle gym, Bryant said.
There will be two of the structures -- one called an Evos and the other a Weevos -- designed for different age groups. The Weevos is for children ages 2 to 5, and the Evos for children 5 to 12, he said.
The cost for both phases is estimated at $150,000.
Bryant said the city chose Claybell Park because of its relatively central location near the Richland-Kennewick border.
"We are looking at it as a destination playground area for the whole community," he said.
But planners nearly hit a snag with the location when proponents of Amon Basin noted the 9,000-square-foot playground would displace some old growth sagebrush.
Members of Tapteal Greenway Association and Friends of Amon Basin circulated an email Thursday urging nature lovers to attend a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting that night to ask the city to consider moving the playground to avoid disrupting the native plants.
The two groups have worked for several years to preserve the basin as natural open space.
Doug Strong, the city's Parks and Recreation director, told the Herald on Friday that his staff took another look at the master plan for the park and found a way to build the playground without disturbing the natural area.
"It will fall now within a developed area of the park," Strong said. "It will work very well."
Tapteal president Scott Woodward did not return a message left at his home Friday.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com