Grand Junction dedicates a new safe place to play

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/The Daily Sentinel—Dozens of children try out the new equipment at the redesigned Lincoln Park playground after a dedication ceremony Saturday. The dedication coincided with Southwest Fest and Arbor Day at the park.

After the red ribbon was ceremonially cut with the enormous scissors, after dozens of children thronged into the newly renovated and just-dedicated playground at Lincoln Park, Niki Duckworth pushed her son Liam, 6, into the melee of the jungle gym.

A yellow Spongebob Squarepants blanket was tucked around him against the blustery Saturday morning, and up a gentle ramp to a covered platform in the new play area, he closed his eyes and smiled.

“A park is a place where a kid can be a kid,” Niki had said minutes earlier, addressing the audience gathered for the playground dedication Saturday. “Kids need a place to play and be free, and kids like to have fun no matter what their abilities.”

The new playground, a part of Lincoln Park renovations which included closing the loop road, planting it with grass and building concrete paths and an arboretum trail, is a vibrant maze of slides and ramps and things to climb on, and it’s handicap-accessible.

“I can remember when we received the letter talking about this playground project and how (the existing playground) failed to meet the needs of some children,” said Tom Burke, a Great Outdoors Colorado board member. The organization gave $250,000 to the Lincoln Park playground project, and 10 other local businesses and individuals donated money, time and materials to it.

“This project is really monumental for all of Grand Junction,” Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts said. “This is our oldest park and it’s maintained its status in the middle of Grand Junction.”

The playground dedication, part of the daylong Southwest Arborfest at Lincoln Park, highlighted not just its accessibility to all children, but the way it incorporates art — including a leaf-shaped bench resting on a large acorn, created by Randy Coleman from a dying tree that previously grew in the park — and an awareness of nature. The jungle gym is anchored by tall metal trees reminiscent of those in Dr. Seuss’s tree-loving “The Lorax,” and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Co-Chairwoman Tawny Espinoza quoted the book in her welcome: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Saturday morning, though, it did get better, especially for families like the Duckworths whose members include children with disabilities. Liam was born with hydrocephalus and uses a wheelchair, “and going to the park was always very difficult,” Niki said. “I can’t push wheelchairs through woodchips very easily.”

But in an accessible playground, she added, “they get to play on equipment with other kids. They don’t have to be that kid over there anymore. Parks like these have the potential to open up a whole new world for our kids. Thank you for making this an accessible and fun place to play.”


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