Inclusive playground opens at St. Cloud Commons Park

November 18, 2018
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Park & Recreation District executive director Kevin Brady speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for phase one of the playground at St. Cloud Commons Park.

HUNTINGTON — With a pair of scissors bigger than he is, 7-year-old Brady Blake cut the ribbon Friday to the new all-inclusive playground at the St. Cloud Commons Park.

“Thank you for building this playground,” said Blake, who had a hand in seeing it built, thanks to his family’s foundation, Brady Steps, which donated $25,000 to the project. Brady Steps works to raise awareness and help other families with children with spina bifida.

A cold November day might not be ideal for opening a new playground, but Greater Huntington Park & Recreation District Executive Director Kevin Brady said he couldn’t wait.

“In 30 years of being in parks and recreation, this is and will be the most rewarding project I’ve ever worked on and been a part of,” Brady said.

The playground is totally wheelchair accessible, including a slide that forms out of a tree trunk. It has a zip line, a rope spinner and plenty to climb on — all sitting atop bouncy rubber.

And that’s just phase one. Phase two will include all-inclusive restrooms, including an adult changing station, and a resurfaced parking lot with new lighting. Phase three will include more playground equipment, including new swings.

“We aren’t finished yet,” said Lauren Carte, GHPRD development and recreation manager. “As we celebrate the completion of phase one, we remain diligent in our efforts to raise the remaining funds needed to complete this entire project. But for today, we play.”

The entire project will cost about $1.4 million, and when phase one broke ground, GHPRD had about half that.

“We need more help to get it done,” Brady said.

It’s a project with a demonstrated need not just in the local area but also in the state. A study done earlier this decade showed that about 16 percent of West Virginia’s 246,963 students enrolled in school between ages 6 and 21 have a disability. That compares with 12.9 percent nationally.

Judging by the smiles on the faces of those who will finally get a chance to play on a playground, it’s worth every penny.

“Today would not be possible without the unwavering support of this community,” Carte said. “Your generosity has guaranteed that all children of all abilities have access to play.”

The playground is located on the West 17th Street side of St. Cloud Commons behind the lodge.

To donate toward completion of the playground, visit www.ghprd.org.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.