MOUNT VERNON — There’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex lurking at the new inclusive playground, now under construction at Memorial Park. Not a real T. Rex, of course, but a sculpture of the skull, ribcage and tail of every kid’s favorite dinosaur, which they will be able to play on, in and around. There will also be two eggs, one opened, where kids will be able to sit or play, and the other which appears to be cracking, exposing the eye of the young dinosaur peering out.
The dinosaur is just one of the numerous devices now being erected on the 11,218-square-foot concrete pad that was poured earlier this fall. The equipment is being installed first, then the special surface will be installed, providing a smooth, slightly flexible top.
The playground is a project of The Knox County Health Department, the Get Healthy Knox County Coalition and the Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities, with help from the Foundation Park Conservancy and the city Parks Department, which had to move two trees.
Tami Ruhl, Creating Healthy Communities coordinator for the Health Department, said the primary funding came from the Creating Healthy Communities grant and “numerous community partners.”
Ruhl said the area will include variations on common themes, such as swings and merry-go-rounds, and other items modified to make them more accessible, such as an Aeroglider that can be reached by kids in wheelchairs. There are a couple Kozy Pods (where kids can sit quietly), swings, a multi-use piece of equipment that includes a slide and a small climbing wall, a sort of merry-go-round that requires no step up to get on, even a small zip line.
Ariel-Foundation Park Operations Manager Mark Fritz, who has been supervising the project, said they are shooting for completion by Dec. 10, with a formal dedication in the spring.
Assembling the playground is the firm of Playwork Midstate. One of the workers, at the site, Taylor Jasiewic, explained that the “tile” surface, for want of a better word, is impermeable and the water will sheet off the plaza and be carried away by drains underneath. French drains will also collect runoff.
Right now, the surface of the pad is three or four inches below the top of the outside sidewalk. When the tile is installed, it will be flush with the rim, so there will be no lip or gap for children to trip on.
Ruhl said they chose the individual tile sections because of quality control while being manufactured and, if a tile is damaged, they’ll have to replace only the damage tile, not the entire surface.
Fritz said the playground is “designed really well; a first-class project.”
He said it is accessible to everyone and develops social as well as physical skills.