September 23, 2020

A Caring Community Committed to Inclusive Play - Baker City, Oregon

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


The City of Baker created an inclusive playground for the entire community, and it all began with a single email that Joyce Bornstedt, a supervisor for Baker City Public Works, received in November of 2018. Baker City was chosen to compete for funding provided by the Portland Trail Blazers and Moda Health’s Moda Assist program. 

A Grass Roots Commitment to Inclusive Play

The following spring, Karla Macy, a member of the Baker City Parks Advisory Board, got to work on social media telling the stories of several children who could benefit from an inclusive playground and asking everyone in their community to vote. Talk about getting out the vote! The small town of Baker City (population 10,000) won with a final tally of 63,748 votes. They were selected over two larger cities to win the contest AND $37,000. 

Then they had a choice to make. The city could update their park with a new play activity, or they could do something bigger. Mayor Loran Joseph wanted “pie in the sky”, and two years later they opened a $308,000 fully inclusive and oh-so-amazing playground! 

Partners For Inclusion

Karla has a passion for inclusive playgrounds that came from her experience as a mother of a child with a physical disability. She and Joyce, along with other parks officials, made the decision early on to look at specific types of equipment to build a playground for all children and families. They worked with Martha Rainey at MRC Recreation, GameTime’s exclusive representative in Oregon. Martha brought them ideas and catalogs, and she also took them on field trips to other playgrounds. They took time looking at every piece of equipment and worked within their budget to create the best possible play environment.


See the new all-inclusive playground at Geiser-Pollman Park in Baker City, Oregon


Designing a Fully Inclusive Play Space

This new playground is adjacent to a playground built six years ago. It is a fun and popular playground, but it isn’t fully inclusive. 

“What was really great during the selection process is that we were able to focus on the accessible equipment only since another playground was right there,” said Joyce. “I guess we thought that the kids who were able to climb would be on that playground but it’s been really fun to watch the kids on the playgrounds and most of the time everyone is on the new stuff!” 

The playground’s most popular pieces of equipment are the RoxAll SeeSaw and the Inclusive Whirl

“We see families, large families with lots of kids, on the seesaw together,” said Karla. “And the inclusive whirl brings kids of all ages and abilities together because you have to have someone push.” 

A Catalyst for Community Change

The playground and the process to get to this point has been a great thing for the community.  “I heard from several people who said, ‘I had no idea that there were so many kids in our community who have disabilities,” said Karla. “I tell them it was because they never had a place to go before now.”

This project has sparked spinoff projects. Other organizations are making their programs more accessible and inclusive. It got people interested and aware. This project brought a community together. And that’s what inclusion is all about. 

“Thanks to GameTime and Martha for all their insight into the project. We wouldn’t have been as successful without her great ideas and wealth of knowledge,” said Joyce. 

Play Is An Equal Right

Designing inclusive play spaces is about creating opportunities for everyone in the community to play together. They break down social and physical barriers. Guided by research from experts, and with the passionate support and leadership of the community, an inclusive playground can make a big impact in the lives of all people. 

To bring inclusive play to your community, contact the GameTime inclusive play expert in your neighborhood.