ARPA funds help improve accessibility at county playgrounds
By Susan Nolan
Playgrounds across Anne Arundel County are getting a much-needed facelift with the help of money from the American Rescue Plan Act. The federal program was created in 2021 to aid public health in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
“During the pandemic, outdoor spaces became more critical to maintaining healthy active lifestyles,” explains Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks Director Jessica Leys. Through the program, her department leveraged $2 million for countywide playground renovations.
In addition to installing shade structures to keep equipment cool, many of the improvements are focused on making the playgrounds more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Uneven grounds previously covered in wood chips are being resurfaced with rubber matting. In some cases, dated equipment is being replaced with apparatuses with more inclusive designs. “Accessible play equipment not only helps youngsters with disabilities socialize and make new friends, but it also allows them to stay active,” Ley states.
“These improvements go beyond the ADA requirements to make playgrounds truly accessible,” says Ley. “Previously wood chips, lack of ramps and challenging equipment made it difficult for those with walking limitations to enjoy the playgrounds. Our goal is to get people to the facility and for them to be able to move around it with ease.”
Individuals with disabilities are not the only ones who benefit from the improvements. “Inclusion is not just important to those with disabilities,” states Ley. “Families and friends need safe, accessible spaces to socialize and gather. Playgrounds present a unique opportunity in that all ages visit them. The grandparent taking their grandchild to the park may benefit from a more stable pathway.”
The improvements to Davidsonville Park and Broadneck Park have been completed. Renovations for Hammond Park, Sawmill Creek Park, Waterbury Park, Bestgate Park, and Lakeshore Park will be finished by late October. Additional playgrounds are scheduled for improvements in the spring and summer of 2023.