Playground Renderings

Plans are moving ahead to build an accessible playground at the 36-acre Red Oak Park in Burnsville. The playground is estimated to cost $240,000 to build.

Burnsville plans to transform part of Red Oak Park into a state-of-the-art playground accessible for children with disabilities.

Northland Recreation will build the playground after their designs were selected by a committee reviewing the public’s feedback. Burnsville Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department Director Garrett Beck said the construction timeline will depend on weather, but he hopes to open the playground sometime this fall.

An inclusive playground topped the wish-list from residents while gathering feedback for the department’s master plan in 2017, Beck said.

This year, the Burnsville Lions Club committed $140,000 to the project, which they raised through pull tabs. The city plans to spend $100,000 from a fund set aside specially for equipment replacement, Beck said.

The Burnsville Lions Club has been behind multiple parks and recreation projects in Burnsville and Savage in recent years, said club member Bill Johnson. The organization donated to the Hidden Valley Elementary playground and Burnsville’s Cliff Fen Park, to name a couple.

Possibilities for Red Oak Park’s new playground designs include various features such as an accessible teeter-totter and multi-person disc swing.

The park will also include a Bankshot court, which puts a less aggressive spin on basketball.

Tara Nelson, a local early childhood special education specialist, said the playground would give her a place to take her son and one of his best friends, who uses a wheelchair.

She also said separate play structures benefit children with autism, who are sometimes overwhelmed by a single, large structure where all the children are together.

“It’s nice for everybody to have separate pieces,” she said.

Burnsville resident Marcy Swanson said she wishes something like this had been available when her daughter, Emily Grace, was younger, but it’s nice to see more effort for accessibility.

She said many playgrounds are inaccessible for children using wheelchairs or walkers because wood chips and pebbles are commonly used as a surface. Accessible playgrounds give more children freedom to do things on their own, she added.

“It’s the independence to hang out at the park with a friend.”

Christine Schuster is a reporter for the Savage Pacer.

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