Felida Community Park, located on 15 acres at 3798 NW 122nd Street in Vancouver, is getting Clark County’s first all-inclusive playground for children of all abilities. The play area will be east of the covered picnic structure within an area of grass that looks like a heart. A new overflow parking lot located on a stand alone parcel west of the main entrance will add 35 new spaces.
The new all-abilities Children’s Celebration Garden Playground is happening thanks to the longtime vision, effort, onsite visits, observations, research, and outreach of the Felida Neighborhood Association and is blazing the trail for future parks to follow suit. Construction is anticipated to begin this summer.
“When we say thank you to the parks,” says Dr. Milada Allen, president of the Felida Neighborhood Association, “we say that in such a way that they listened not just to us, but they listened to the kids.”
This is significant explains Allen because more than 11,000 kids at several large Felida Neighborhood Association events (3,000-6,000 people) living with special needs between 2004 and 2017 were encouraged to write, talk, or draw what they would like to see in an all-inclusive playground. Parents and adults weighed in too. The list was long and included rainbow arches, boats rocking, musical instruments like playing and hearing drums to feel vibrations, Lily pads, locomotives, airplanes they could board and ride using their wheelchairs, and more. “These kids were opening up their hearts, their dreams, their hopes and their wishes,” shares Allen, “and they told us all about it with a big smile.”
Allen says the effort to build an all-abilities playground at Felida Community Park began after she and her daughter noticed the park’s standard playground equipment was not user-friendly for youth using walkers, wheelchairs, and other specialized mobility devices. Allen says the community feedback confirmed this. “The playground is ADA accessible,” says Allen, “but it was minimal, and so we did an analysis of how kids play and found some can’t negotiate the play equipment and decided it was important for the community to have an all-inclusive play area.”
Then in 2006, after hearing many stories about wonderful all-abilities playgrounds nationwide, the Allen team and the Felida Neighborhood Association Board proposed a first all-inclusive all-abilities playground in the county.
“Most of the credit belongs to those kids,” says Allen spiritedly, “because they agreed to work on something that they believed in.”
Felida Community Park’s existing play structure is typical of older playgrounds and features stairs and ladders, raised slides and platforms, narrow walkways, and wood chips. The all-inclusive playground will feature amenities like rubber surfacing, benches, rock features, and equipment designed for children of all-abilities, explains Clark County Public Works Capital Project Manager Scott Sawyer. He provided information that shows a sensory wave rock n raft, merry-go-all, concert duo, fire truck cab, and cantata chimes on the menu of fun. The cool new playground will have a rainbow arch at the entrance.
“We try as much as we can to partner with the neighborhood associations,” says Cindy Gonzalez, spokesperson for Clark County Public Works. “And we do actively look for feedback from the community because we want to make sure that we are meeting their needs.”
When the park opens, it will be a welcome addition as laughter and smiling faces are sure to happen there.