Article and Photos by Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Reporter
As goes the often-misquoted famous line from the movie, “Field of Dreams,” the Town of Wheatfield is counting on the belief that “If you build it, they will come.”
Construction is now underway for Wheatfield’s inclusive playground in Fairmount Park, and it’s a dream coming true for kids with special needs and their families. Inclusive playgrounds accommodate and welcome young people of all abilities – to play, learn and grow together.
Wheatfield Councilmember Curt Doktor said the site preparation work – including leveling and drainage – was done internally.
“We had members of our Highway Department complete that work to save money,” he said.
Doktor noted the playground is expected to be completed by the end of October, and the grand opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 4. He said refreshments will be served – including Tim Hortons coffee for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids. Doktor said it promises to be a lot of fun for young and old.
“We’ve heard really positive feedback from the community, including children – just an excitement around the park,” he explained. “I think there’s a lot of buzz out there right now about it, and we just are super-psyched now that we see the site work complete. It’s starting to get assembled – it’s all becoming real.”
Doktor said a pavilion is still in the plans for next year, but funding is still being worked out.
There’s a contest to name the new playground, and the winner gets a $250 gift card. The contest is open to the public – including students. The survey is live now, runs through Sunday, Oct. 15, and can be found on the town website, www.wheatfield.ny.us.
Doktor said there have been over 50 submissions so far. The winner will be unveiled at the grand opening. He said they hope to put up a gateway sign at the entrance of the playground and at the road, because there are several entrances to Fairmount Park.
Parkitects, a playground design-and-build company based in Buffalo, was selected to build the playground. Their subcontractor, Gardenville Landscaping of West Seneca, is in the process of assembling the equipment.
Gardenville Project Manager David Schwalenberg said his company has been on the job for about a week.
“We’re installing the all-inclusive playground, and that includes slides, swings and some other play activities,” he said.
One of the special features is a Sway Fun Glider, a wheelchair-accessible glider that meets all safety standards.
“We’ve been installing playgrounds for approximately 10 years now,” Schwalenberg said. “There’s a lot of different components to these playgrounds, which makes it sometimes challenging to build them because there’s different elevations and different dimensions.”
He added that the playground will have artificial turf, one of the few playgrounds in the area to use turf. Wheatfield Recreation Director Mike Ranalli, who has coordinated the project, has said that the turf has anti-static and antibacterial qualities for greater safety and health.
The playground also will have an adaptive, anti-static roller slide; double-wide, two-way ramps instead of stairs; swings; a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round; and other special features to make it inclusive and fun.
American Rescue Plan funds covered the fees of the entire project. The estimated cost for the playground, itself, is $208,000, and the special turf is expected to cost an estimated $218,000.
Workers with Gardenville Landscaping of West Seneca assemble the components of the inclusive playground being built in Fairmount Park, Wheatfield.