January 20, 2021

Play and Playground Trends for 2021: Inclusion and Social Equity

After evaluating data and feedback from landscape architects, leading recreation professionals, and play experts, GameTime identified five significant trends within the park and playground industry for the upcoming year. This series will explore each trend individually. 


Parks and recreation departments are going beyond the basic ADA requirements. Across the country and around the world, communities are embracing the need for fully inclusive play spaces. Throughout 2020, many parks departments took universally-designed playgrounds to another level.

In 2021, inclusion & social equity will be a priority for even more communities. As a longtime advocate for inclusive play, we want to share some examples. These communities demonstrate leadership in the area of inclusion on equity. 

Inclusive Play Makes Inclusive Communities

The Greensboro Parks Department set out to make inclusive play a priority in their city. The Up in the AIR (Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation) playground was added to Keeley Park in Greensboro, NC. It’s the city’s first inclusive playground and the largest inclusive playground west of Raleigh. 

By incorporating the research and best practices found in Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design, Keeley Park was designed to address the needs of every child in the community. The playground features many inclusive play pieces such as GameTime’s RoxAllSeeSaw, inclusive ZipTrack, and sensory play activities throughout the space. 

Designed by Cunningham Recreation, the inclusive playground at Keely Park is a National Demonstration Site for inclusive play. Greensboro, North Carolina is setting a positive example for communities across the state. 

Dedicated to Inclusive Design

Many cities recognize the need for inclusion and social equity, but Gillette, WY, has made it a priority for years. Since 2015, the Gillette Parks and Recreation Department has installed five National Demonstration Sites for inclusive play. 

"The purpose of these new playgrounds is to enrich play experiences and allow children to enhance their physical, cognitive, and social development," says Gillette Parks Manager Janie Kuntz. "We are also taking into consideration the importance of providing a safe environment where children of all abilities are encouraged to play together socially." 

The five National Demonstration Sites in Gillette include:

  • Dalbey Memorial Park, City Park
  • Rotary Point Park, Sierra Glen Park
  • Energy Capital Sports Complex

With best practices and inclusion research from industry experts, Gillette created spaces everyone in the community can enjoy.

Community-Wide Commitment

Baker City, Oregon set out to create an inclusive playground but didn't have the funds they needed. They applied for funding from the Portland Trail Blazers and Moda Health’s Moda Assist program. 

The funders decided to award the funds to the city that received the most votes. Nobody expected Baker City to win because many, much larger cities also applied. Baker City shocked everyone when the community collected 63,000 votes!

In a city of only 100,000 people, this was a huge accomplishment. The city put the funding toward their first fully-inclusive playground at Geiser-Pollman Park.

“What was great during the selection process is that we were able to focus on the accessible equipment only since another playground was right there,” says Joyce Bornstedt, a supervisor for Baker City Public Works. “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 boasts multiple inclusive play elements, the most popular of which are the RoxAll See Saw and the Inclusive Whirl. 

This grassroots movement to make Baker City more inclusive is what inclusion is all about. The goal of inclusion and social equity is to bring people together. Baker City, Oregon is a perfect example of that goal.

Partners for Inclusive Play

As you can tell, inclusion and social equity have become a priority for countless cities like these, and even more, will join them in 2021. GameTime will continue to partner with communities to create inclusive play spaces. 

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