MOORHEAD — When Moorhead City Councilwoman Heidi Durand visited an inclusive playground in Mandan, N.D., this past summer it was the first time her 12-year-old son who uses a power wheelchair and her 4-year-old son were able to play together on the same playground equipment.
Often, equipment isn't adaptive to allow children with disabilities to use it. Additionally, many playgrounds have wood chips, rocks or sand around the equipment that makes it impossible for those in wheelchairs, walkers or crutches to navigate.
She said her children "loved" the playground that features a rubberized surface surrounding the equipment for children to play and move around on.
She hopes that within the next year or two, Moorhead will also have a similar inclusive playground and her fellow council members were unanimously in support of the project when they selected a site for the project Monday, Oct. 14.
The park, which was among the top six on a city survey "wish list" of community projects, will be located at the Southside Regional Park near 20th Street and 40th Avenue by the Moorhead Soccer Complex.
It will be next to "Miracle Field," a rubberized, adaptive baseball diamond for those with disabilities. Durand said the field "gets a lot of use."
The City Council and Durand hope the park will become a "regional destination" as there are few to be found nearby. The only ones she knows of besides Mandan are in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
She said the park is not only for children, but also for adults with mobility issues who may want to play with their children on the playground and help them on the adaptive equipment.
Although the location has been selected, the next step is financing. Durand said the city is seeking donations as well as a big donor because the playground could cost as much as $1 million.
The city budgeted $10,000 this year to help with the initial design work for the project, and the Moorhead Kiwanis have been the first to contribute to the fund drive.
It was noted that former City Councilman Steve Gehrtz, who runs a construction company, has said he would assist with the project, but more funding is needed.
The Southside Park was selected for its large parking area, considering the playground is envisioned to hold up to 100 kids.
There is some adaptive equipment at the Gooseberry Park, but Durand said it doesn't have the rubberized surface, which is one of the major costs in the project.
Moorhead has 41 other playgrounds.