MODESTO, Calif. — The "Disneyland of playgrounds" in Modesto hit a funding milestone, reaching over a million dollars toward a playground where kids with and without disabilities can play side-by-side.

"The community's been pretty supportive so far, said Chad Kennedy, a community advocate with the Awesome Spot Playground. "It's been great to have the community so engaged and involved."

How it started

The Awesome Spot Playground is an effort brought about by Modesto mother Rachel Loredo. Her son Tommy Loredo has arthrogryposis, which affects the lower half of his body. 

Inspiration for the park came about when Loredo took her son to the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto. It provided a moment where her son was able to go through the park and playground without any help.

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With that experience in mind, she approached the City of Modesto for the project in 2015 and, by 2017, a full design was finished.

Roughly two years ago, the Awesome Spot Playground started at 12 percent funding with a $2.5 million goal. Now, the advocates have reached the halfway point with about $1.2 million.

What is a playground for all?

“We wanted the Disneyland of playgrounds," said Kelly Gloria, a community advocate for the Awesome Spot Playground. "When you see it there are a lot of components that you would see on a typical playground, but they’re accessible to all.”

From those on the autism spectrum or those in wheelchairs to seniors that want to be in the area with the grandchildren, the goal has been to build a playground that can accommodate everyone with or without disabilities.

“What I like to tell people is that this type of a playground is designed for diversity, and it doesn’t mean its specific to one person,” added Chad Kennedy, a landscape architect with Odell Engineering. “There are opportunities for everybody to do things and we’ve tried to eliminate all those barriers, so people have the choice in what they can and want to do.”

There will still be traditional playground elements, but, there might be some adjustments or re-imagining of features. 

Merry-go-rounds: Designed at grade so they are wheelchair accessible

Slides: Built into hills and accessible by the grade of the ramp leading up the hill

Swings: Designed so that the power of one swing is generated by another swing

Other elements of the park have been designed for sensory play and have even improved on other playgrounds that Kennedy has seen.

“It’s kind of a social experience, she said. "It’s designed intentionally to foster social interaction between people, which is not a typical thing in a playground.”

Water play area: Water play area and a sensory wall where kids can feel and manipulate the water

Musical equipment: Mallets for musical equipment can fall apart due to wear and tear, but simple adjustments like replacing the top of a mallet with a skateboard wheel can improve durability

No ramps: Plans include gradual grade changes in the park making ramps unnecessary

“One of the things that we really wanted to focus on was no ramps at all," Kennedy said.  "Many of these projects throughout the nation that have this focus, they focus on the ramps.” 

Sometimes those ramps require a lot of work to use but with little to offer in return, Kennedy said. 

What comes next?

Construction drawings from O’Dell Engineering are expected to be finished by spring or summer of this year. Kennedy said these drawings will go to the City for a final review in March.

According to Thomas Reeves, spokesperson for the City of Modesto, one of the main matters is getting full funding for the project. Once it's funded, the project can be put out to bid and constructed.

“The timeline for that [construction] to happen is not fully determined yet, but construction could start as soon as this summer if all the funding is obtained, though construction in 2020 is probably more likely,” Reeves said in an e-mail to ABC10.

The advocates have the permits, construction drawings, and a potential contractor ready to go in the next month, but funding is the current hold up. 

“At the end of the day, it’s going to come to whether we can get the money from sponsors and donors [for] that next 50 percent. When that happens, we’ll be ready,” Kennedy said.

If you’re interested in supporting the Awesome Spot Playground, you can donate on their website or visit one of their fundraisers.

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