Sponsorship, volunteer opportunities available
Ten years ago, when Vania Apps looked out her window at the park behind her, she could see wildlife, trees and an old playscape that was well beyond its useful life. She and other residents began dreaming of a new park and playscape that would be state-of-the-art and could be enjoyed by all.
The concept for McKinley Barrier-Free Park grew out of conversations in the community about unmet needs for recreation and play. Karen Silverthorn, a Fraser resident and special education teacher, saw a need for outdoor recreation opportunities designed around the special needs and challenges her students had. She felt there was an opportunity for inclusive play – where everyone can interact, learn and enjoy themselves. With over 25,000 children and adults in Macomb County that have these challenges, an idea was born to use a “clean slate” approach and design a new park and playground from scratch – meeting the needs of all who enjoy the outdoors.
Fast forward to 2015, and Fraser is in the middle of an extreme park makeover, thanks to Vania and her friends at the Fraser First Booster Club. What started as a simple idea to create a playscape has turned into the McKinley Barrier-Free Park, which will be the first-of-its-kind destination in Macomb County for recreation and play for children and adults of all abilities. Never before in Macomb County has a park been designed with such care and attention to essential needs for children and families. Every innovation in recreation education and design has been taken into consideration to create an environment that is unique and provides a true sense of place for children. It will be a true destination site for Macomb County families.
Vania sees McKinley Barrier-Free Park as an opportunity to provide a safe, fun and enjoyable environment for all that can be an important part of the community — and educate at the same time.
“Inclusive play can erase fear and preconceived notions,” said Vania. “Think about the many advantages for our children when they have a play environment that encourages them to think about themselves, their peers and their families. Not with fear of a person with a physical or mental challenge, but with the understanding that how someone’s abilities do not define them. Think about how a child or someone in their family could have the chance to show their individual talents. That is the power of barrier-free play and the power that can change lives and communities.”
Designed with people with special needs and challenges in mind, McKinley Barrier-Free Park is truly a place that can be called “play for all.” The central feature of the park will be a new playscape which includes a jet airplane, control tower, police cruiser, fire truck, slides, swings and sensory exploration panels — all accessible by people with special challenges.
The park will also feature a new, 30,000-square-foot playscape, a mile-long walking path, a picnic pavilion, restrooms, sensory gardens and new parking lot. Offering outdoor recreation, education, exercise and family fun, McKinley Barrier-Free Park has something for everyone!
Over the past several years, the Fraser First Booster Club (www.fraserfirst.com) and the city of Fraser (www.micityoffraser.com) have worked together to design, plan, and fundraise. Thanks to many generous donors and a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, the first phase of major improvements is underway. A grant was submitted on April 1, 2015 to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to assist in playscape and surfacing design elements of the park. A Kresge Grant is being developed to focus on healthy approaches to recreational play.
We’re looking for help
Fundraising continues to complete the playscape and other amenities. If you’d like to help, (or know someone that can), we have sponsorship opportunities are available at all levels. You can check them out at http://bit.ly/McKinleyParkSponsorships, as we’d love to have you as a partner is this great project! Your continued interactive participation is vital to the success of McKinley Barrier Free Park.