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Playground expansion to become handicapped accessible

Muskogee Phoenix - 2/18/2020

Feb. 18--Fort Gibson could expand its downtown playground to accommodate handicapped children by this summer.

The Board of Trustees is set to open bids on additional playground equipment at the Splash Pad and Skate Park on Railroad Street. Equipment will include a set with six swings, a "team swing" and a swing designed for a wheelchair.

"We're trying to be inclusive with the swings," said Fort Gibson Town Administrator Brian DeShazo said, adding that the project started before he was hired last November.

"I have a son with a disability and many of his friends," he said. "We have a pretty good-sized disabled community here. We've got several kids in wheelchairs. When we have our ribbon cutting, we'd like them to come, try it out, make sure it does what it's supposed to do."

DeShazo said he hopes workers can start construction soon after bids are awarded. He said he hopes to have it finished around Memorial Day.

"We estimate just under $200,000," he said. "Just ordering the equipment could take four to six weeks."

The six swings will have three sizes: toddlers, small children, older youth and adults. DeShazo said the toddler swings will have seat backs and plastic harnesses in front.

"You can have bigger kids in these. It just kind of straps them in so they can swing," DeShazo said.

The team swing would feature a disk suspended by four chains.

"It's really kind of fun. They can spin," he said. "It gives them something different. If you had little enough kids, you could put three in there."

The handicapped-access swing features a platform suspended with four chains.

"You can put your whole wheelchair on it. It straps in and a person can ride back there and hold him," DeShazo said. "Any person with any disability should be able to come participate in those activities."

The swing sets will be on a rubberized play surface on the park's south end beside current playground sets, DeShazo said. New sidewalks will be installed to connect the swing sets with the rest of the park, he said.

The splash pad and skate park will remain open while the new sets are installed, DeShazo said. However, the current playground equipment might be roped off until construction is finished.

"It will be wonderful when it's done," he said. "A swing is wonderful therapy, especially for autistic kids. That motion is calming. And I know kids in wheelchairs, how many times to they get to swing?"

The swing sets are part of a series of parks improvements the town plans for the next few years.

DeShazo said the town is in the early stages of applying for a land and water grant to fund improvement of the baseball park in the north part of town.

"That park has been forsaken for some time as far as upgrades," he said. "There's no playground equipment there. There's nothing for kids on that part of town to do. We want to give them a park area there and do upgrades to the ball parks."

Improvements at that park also could include two more fields, a basketball court and a walking trail, he said.


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