February 22, 2021

Custom Inclusive Playground Depicts California Community’s Heritage

As part of our ongoing GameTime Cares initiative, we're sharing a series of Caring Communities posts. We work with many great people to build parks and playgrounds. These are the stories of communities who care.

In 2019, the city of Menlo Park, CA, set out to create a custom, inclusive playground at Nealon Park. GameTime was hired to get the job done, and we got busy! To understand the vision, we met with the city parks department and members of the community. Together with our exclusive representative in Northern California, MRC Recreation, we planned the perfect playground for Menlo Park.



Custom Playground Creations

The design team wanted input from the community for this project. After several public sessions, residents expressed their desire for a nature-themed playground. Naturally (see what we did there), the design team created a park that resembles Yosemite Park in Northern California. Landmark Design, the custom design group within GameTime, assisted with this project. They chose to create many play elements that mirrored Yosemite, including:

  • 12-foot tall replica of Half Dome
  • Redwood log climber and tunnel
  • Campfire climber
  • Volkswagen Bus sensory wall

One of the many custom creations at Nealon Park is a Campfire Climber

 

“After several group sessions with the city, we took the ideas to Landmark Design - our custom design team. They just ran with it,” says Leo Seavey, MRC Recreation General Manager in California & Oregon. “The public fell in love with the first run they did, and we also made it totally inclusive.” 

Designing an Inclusive Play Space

In addition to creating a custom-themed playground, the community wanted a fully-inclusive destination. They chose items from GameTime’s extensive inclusive product offering, such as:

  • Inclusive whirl
  • 70-foot long zipline with adaptive seat
  • Expression Swing Universal
  • Expression Swing Toddler
  • Sensory panels
  • Multi-generational fitness area

GameTime's Inclusive Whirl is a zero-entry roll-on whirl that is fun for people of all abilities.

 

GameTime combined inclusive play products with the research found in Me2: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design. Me2 is a comprehensive design guide published by PlayCore in partnership with Utah State University Center for Persons with Disabilities. The All Abilities Playground at Nealon Park was designed using the research from Utah State to address the needs of all people and all abilities.

PlayCore recognized Nealon Park as a National Demonstration Site (NDS)  for inclusive play. 

“The playground is consistent with the goals and vision of the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan that the City Council accepted in October that promotes inclusivity through universal design and promotes health and wellness for our children and their families,” Mayor Ray Mueller said to ImMenlo when the park first opened.

Putting Research Into Practice

Nealon Park is more than an inclusive playground, and it's more than a custom design. With its numerous climbers, balance beams, and swings, Nealon Park promotes youth physical fitness through play. That is why the park also received the NDS designation for Play On!. The designation recognizes parks that combine all six essential elements of play to promote youth physical activity.

The six elements of play are spinning, sliding, swinging, balancing, brachiating, and climbing. 

The playground at Nealon Park supports all six essential elements of physical play, and provides inclusive elements for everyone.



“This has to do with the research and best practices on design,” says Seavey. “This is a thoughtful design, and we’re thinking about every single element we include.”

The research-oriented design doesn’t stop there. Nealon Park also received the NDS recognitions for Nature-Based Play. By incorporating natural plantings, such as the large redwood trees near the playground, and following the guidelines and research in the NatureGrounds guidebook, the parks received another National Demonstration Site designation.  

Custom Play Solutions for Your Community

Transforming a park into an inclusive and multigenerational space is important for every community, so why not make it a custom park while you’re at it? The city of Menlo Park exemplifies the combination of custom theming and evidence-based research, and your community can do the same. 

If you could use the help of GameTime’s Landmark Design group to custom design or theme your local playground, contact the custom play expert in your neighborhood or request our custom play spaces catalog.