Collaborative effort brings first-of-its-kind play space to Erie County parks system
√ A 'Playground for All' is fully accessible for children of all needs and abilities; features play equipment for children of all ages and of all abilities
Erie County’s Chestnut Ridge Park was buzzing with excitement Friday as the anticipated “Playground for All” was officially opened and introduced to an enthusiastic public with remarks from public officials and project partners.
The first of its kind in an Erie County park, the “Playground for All” offers a fully accessible play space for children and adults of all physical and developmental abilities. Scenically located overlooking the park’s sled hill next to the casino, the “Playground for All” incorporates a universal design play space for people to experience, enjoy and interact with in a sensory-rich environment.
“With the completion of the ‘Playground for All,’ Chestnut Ridge Park is now home to a place that allows visitors of all ages and abilities to enjoy themselves in a playground setting, close to nature and accessible to all,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “This playground will bring families and children together and will foster many great memories of time spent together at the park having fun in the great outdoors. I thank Commissioner (of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Troy P.) Schinzel and his team for their work in shepherding this project forward as well as our many partners, especially the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy, for helping to make this playground a reality.”
Poloncarz was joined by Schinzel, Executive Director of the Erie County Office for People with Disabilities Frank Cammarata III, Chestnut Ridge Conservancy President Gordon Panek and members of the conservancy, President of the Junior League of Buffalo Rebecca Gandour, and numerous project partners and supporters for the official opening of the “Playground for All.”
Panek said, “The Chestnut Ridge Conservancy is very proud to have initiated and pursued the idea for an all-inclusive playground in Chestnut Ridge Park. But it is really the financial and other significant support from foundations, businesses, individual donors and Erie County Parks that have made this playground a reality we can all be proud of. Thank you to all who have partnered with us on this outstanding gift to the community.”
Schinzel said, “We are proud to be a part of the team that’s making Erie County parks better for future generations, and the ‘Playground for All’ will play a big part in bringing families and children here for many years to come. This is an exciting, inviting and attractive play space that is sure to be a popular place and will serve as a model for other, similar play areas in other Erie County parks.”
Erie County already has $2.1 million in capital funding in place for five more inclusive playgrounds that will be installed in each of the county’s Heritage Parks (Chestnut Ridge, Como Lake, Emery, Ellicott Creek and Akron Falls) over the next one to two years.
A press release stated, “Inclusive playgrounds have many benefits, providing a play space that enables children to develop physically, socially and emotionally. In addition to being fully accessible and inviting to people with disabilities, especially parents with disabilities, inclusive playgrounds are a resource for grandparents and aging caregivers who want to interact with the children in their care. Their universal design permits all children to play together, including kids with disabilities, and has a wide range of play features to accommodate children’s interests.”
Along with the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, the Erie County Office for People with Disabilities was closely involved in the development of the “Playground for All.”
“Inclusive playgrounds are welcoming spaces to the community, removing the barriers to social interaction and giving all participants equal opportunity to enjoy themselves. The ‘Playground for All’ concept brings people, families and caregivers of all generations and abilities together,” Cammarata said.
Vice President of Program Support and Development Community Services for Every1 Kelly Kinderman said, “As a proud parent of a child with a disability and a professional in the field of disabilities, ‘A Playground for All’ is a welcomed addition to our community! The playground promotes inclusion and will be instrumental in fostering kindness, understanding and acceptance of children of all abilities.”
The press release added, “The ‘Playground for All’ project was blessed with many ardent supporters, including the Junior League of Buffalo, the Shoemaker Family Trust, the American Legion Post 567 Auxiliary, Walter R. Musty Homes for Autism Foundation, University at Buffalo IDEA Center, K.I.A. Memorial Road March, Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce, People Inc., Sensational Fun Inc., Spectrum Health & Human Services, and Visit Buffalo Niagara.”
Gandour said, "Junior League of Buffalo is honored to have the opportunity to partner with Chestnut Ridge Conservatory in the construction of an inclusive playground for children in our area and providing financial support with the Decorator's Show House proceeds. The Junior League of Buffalo feels this project is aligned with our mission to serve the community and our values of diversity by supporting Chestnut Ridge as they created a space where all children feel welcome."
For more information on the Erie County Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, visit https://www3.erie.gov/parks/; or on the Erie County Office for People with Disabilities, visit https://www3.erie.gov/ecopd/.