Officials from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and community leaders recently joined City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to celebrate the arrival of new playground facilities at Glen Alla Park that will allow physically disabled children to enjoy Del Rey’s largest recreation area.
Shane’s Inspiration, an organization that advocates on behalf of disabled children by creating universally accessible playgrounds to integrate children of all abilities, worked with Rosendahl and parks officials to bring the new play area to Del Rey.
Sunshine, colorful balloons and sparkling new playground equipment served as the backdrop and the laughter of parents and children as the soundtrack to the park improvement ceremony Dec. 16. Toddlers scrambled over new park enhancements under the watchful eye of their parents as Rosendahl, who represents Del Rey, opened the ceremony.
“This is one of those moments that we all treasure,” the councilman told the audience. “It’s a moment that we actually accomplish something that puts smiles on everybody’s faces.
“There’s no downside to improving a park,” Rosendahl continued. “But there is an incredible upside when you open it up with this inspirational opportunity for all young people.”
The renovations were paid for by Quimby funds, which is revenue that a developer is required to contribute to the council district where they are building a residential, commercial or mixed-use development. The funds are earmarked for projects like park enhancements.
Del Rey Neighborhood Council President Eric DeSobe said he was excited that the facility was now installed at Glen Alla Park. “I look forward to hearing positive feedback from the community as we go forward,” said DeSobe, who was unable to attend the event.
Rosendahl called parks part of an “intervention and prevention strategy” for children.
“Why not let kids have a lot of fun, get their energy going and not get caught up in some of the things that we don’t want them involved in?” the councilman asked. “It’s a better dollar spent than having to use police powers. It’s better to allow these healthy, natural activities to flourish.”
Mark Redick, the past president of the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, reminded the audience that not everyone was in favor of bringing a universally accessible component to Glen Alla Park when the local council was first approached last year by Shane’s Inspiration.
“There were some questions and some opposition, but we worked together with the great leadership of Bill Rosendahl to make sure that everyone saw the benefits that it could bring,” Redick recalled.
“This is the largest park in Del Rey, and it is a park that should be open to all, and not just a few.”
The new additions include light blue universally accessible playground equipment that represents the ocean and the sky, said Recreation and Parks Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan. The main feature of the structure is a ship with a pelican headmast and a steering wheel attached to the mast with nautical panels.
In addition, there is a climbing rock designed for scaling with artificial grass underneath it, a sensory tunnel for exploration for fossils and a sand table with a sea turtle.
“The neat thing about this is there is a transfer station so that children with disabilities can transfer from a wheelchair into the sand,” Regan explained. “They can get on their knees, go under the table and play, and even hunt for fossils that are buried in the sand.”
Regan pointed out that the new equipment was designed for disabled as well as able-bodied children.
Rosendahl said despite some initial controversy about the inclusion of the accessible playground by some residents who live nearby, he thinks the new improvements will bring a number of tangible benefits.
“The bottom line is all kids should have the opportunity to have fun, and all kids should be able to do it with each other,” the councilman said after the ceremony had concluded. “For young people to meet others with special needs or challenges sets in each person’s soul a relationship that only that can do.
“And to see a kid with a disability and a kid without a disability smiling and laughing with each other is the ultimate joy of connecting us all and giving us all what we should have.”
Shane’s Inspiration Founder and CEO Tiffany Harris concurs.
“True inclusion really happens on the playground,” Harris told The Argonaut. “Children of a young age tend to be very inquisitive and we find that we can get them together in a play environment.”
Melissa Stander, who once worked with children with special needs, brought her son Raphael to the park and was impressed with the new additions.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “I really love the idea of accessibility and that there are these kinds of facilities that are available and accessible for everybody.”
Harris said Shane’s Inspiration, which now has 17 universally accessible playgrounds in Los Angeles, praised Recreation and Parks and the City Council for its support for her organization’s mission. “We have had a wonderful gift of partnership with the city and with the Department of Recreation and Parks since the very beginning,” she said.
Redick said the dedication was the culmination of a community vision that came to fruition just in time for the holidays.
“I want to thank the people of Del Rey and our friends and neighbors for stepping up to the plate of responsibility for allowing Shane’s Inspiration to take place,” he said.
Harris said her organization has seen how interaction between children on universally accessible playgrounds can forge friendships between strangers as well as demystify stereotypes regarding physically challenged children and adults. “We’ve seen firsthand how playing together can be this magical bridge to dissolve bias and build that bridge toward friendship,” she said.
Stander said having her son, who will be 3 years old in April, learn to play with children who are facing physical challenges could be a meaningful experience for him. “He can learn all of the different abilities that people have,” she said.
Harris said research that Shane’s Inspiration has seen indicates that as many as 85 percent of adults who lose their jobs do so because of their inability to socialize. “If a child is excluded on the playground, that can pave the way for their entire life,” the CEO said. “If a child is included in play and extracurricular activities, it can make all the difference.”
Rosendahl said he would like to have playgrounds like Shane’s Inspiration in all of the parks in his council district.
“It depends on priorities and funding,” the councilman said, adding that he would like to include a universally accessible playground at Westchester Park, where renovations are being considered.
At the end of the dedication, Rosendahl invited children who were playing in the park to join him in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.