Making History

Travels Through the Past, Present and Future

Making History

Wabun Picnic Area

Minnehaha Regional Park, Minneapolis, Minn.

Not only does this playground step back in time with its thematic nod to its origins as an auto tourist camp, but it also takes a giant step forward as the first inclusive playground within the Minneapolis Parks system.

Playground products shown in video may not be appropriate for every age group. Playsystems shown in video are for demonstration purposes only. Product configurations may vary.

Family Fun from Yesteryear

When Peggy Halvorson puts her mind to something, it gets done. Like when she approached the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) with the idea "It was exciting to have a theme that required historical research."Chris DesRoches local playground consultant, Flagship Recreation of establishing an inclusive play space. Turns out they had the perfect spot for it.

The Wabun Picnic Area no longer looked like the camping spot it once was in the 1920s-1950s. But now it’s been transformed to thematically reflect its heritage. The 2- to 5-year-old area features a classic car with a finger maze on the grill. A Sway Fun® glider has been outfitted with a custom surround to make it look like a camper trailer. And in the 5- to 12- year-old area, wood-like siding and cobblestone features capture the idea of simple cabins. Sturdy “tents” are perfect for hiding under and climbing over.

“The design is so important,” states Andrea Weber, project manager with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) Planning. “Working with Landscape Structures, from the design all the way through to making sure things are correct at installation—they know how to do it right.”

One Playground for All

This playground gives all kids a chance to be on top of the structure, something kids with disabilities don’t often get to do. An accessible scavenger hunt encourages kids to work together as they explore the play area.

The Roller Table™ can be very therapeutic for some kids. “But all kids love it and play on it in very different ways,” says Andrea. “All kids are kids, and they should be able to play together.”

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"Playing together on the same equipment helps to take away the stigma of having a disability."Andrea WeberProject Manager, MPRB Planning

Chris DesRoches of Flagship Recreation says this was the largest inclusive playground he’s worked on. Even so, he believes inclusivity can be affordable. “It just takes a good amount of creativity and a holistic mindset: What can we do to make it a positive space for child development, social play and physical activity for all kids.”

Thoughtful Landscaping

A quiet play area was included in the design along with a sensory garden that features plants with different scents, textures, colors and sizes. “Kids with autism and sensory processing disorders have different needs, including the need to get away, calm down and explore tactile needs,” explains Andrea. An elevated walkway encircles the space, contributing to universal access while reducing the amount of ramping. According to Andrea, “We wanted to be inclusive while also being less visually obtrusive and more aesthetically pleasing.”

Historic Results

Peggy Halvorson, who started it all, is thrilled with the results. “The playground ended up being nearly 90 percent accessible, even though the goal was only 70 percent. It’s exciting to see that the community knows it's there and is using it.”

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