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Watch now: Prairieland Elementary 'thrilled' for $107,283 accessible playground

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NORMAL —Prairieland Elementary administrators said Tuesday they are excited to see new accessible playground equipment at Carden Park next school year that gives all students the opportunity to play.

The Normal Town Council approved new playground equipment and new surfacing for the park Monday night, since it is next in line for an upgrade.

Scott Peters, principal at Prairieland, said the school is “absolutely thrilled” the town is moving forward on the updates at Carden, which is one of Normal’s oldest and most used parks.

“Looking ahead with being able to have the inclusive playground … this gives every child now the opportunity to get out in the playground area even if they have mobility issues,” Peters said.

The five-acre park is provided through a cooperative partnership with McLean County Unit 5. This allows Prairieland students to use the park during recess and as part of physical education classes on good weather days, Peters said.

“We’re definitely looking forward to this, not only for our school kids here but the neighborhood in general,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, Trustee Chemberly Cummings said this playground gives the town the opportunity to step closer to being as inclusive as it strives to be.

“Let’s begin to be a community who focuses on ADA accommodation, which makes for inclusivity for all in our community, if we are true about wanting to be an inclusive community,” she said. “I’m so glad that we are showing what we say we are. We say we are an all-inclusive community, and we’re trying our best to make it an inclusive community even with something as small as updating our parks for ADA accommodations.”

The new playground equipment is estimated to cost $107,283.43, which is within the town’s current budget for planned playground equipment replacement of $135,000. However, the resurfacing is estimated to cost an additional $72,679.80.

As part of the resolution to waive the formal bid process and award the contract for the playground to GameTime C/O Cunningham Associates Inc., the council also made a budget adjustment to move the $179,963.29 project forward.

City Manager Pam Reece said town staff recommended the equipment be purchased now because costs are expected to increase Jan. 1.

The resurfacing will include a “poured-in-place surface” in combination with wood fiber material, designed to increase accessibility for those who use mobility devices like wheelchairs. Trustee Karyn Smith noted wheelchair users may have difficulty moving over surfaces with woodchips or rocks, which are often found in less accessible parks and play areas.

“I really believe that it’s an investment that all of our citizens are deserving of,” she said.

Peters said Tuesday the current play area is “surrounded by mulch that’s very hard to traverse for some of the kids.”

The new surface “takes away that barrier for any child and that’s very very exciting,” he said.

The equipment replacement vote comes five months after students from Grove and Parkside elementary schools wrote letters to Mayor Chris Koos and spoke to the council asking for more accessibility in parks.

“I love the idea that a class of our next generation of communities, of our state and our country are getting involved, and it’s nice when every once in a while they can bring forth an issue and a government can respond and get things done,” said Trustee Scott Preston on Monday. “That’s a positive that probably doesn’t happen near as much across the board as it probably should.”

In other business, the council approved an annexation agreement, rezoning request and amended subdivision plan for the Trails on Sunset Lake development at the northeast corner of Airport and Fort Jesse roads.

The council also voted to approve a $163,425.81 purchasing agreement for five pieces of maintenance equipment for the municipal golf course, as part of the general vehicle replacement fund.

Upon the mayor’s recommendations, Jay Tummala and Andy Byars were appointed to the Normal Planning Commission, approved by council vote.

Sept. 22 marks the autumnal equinox, which means the beginning of fall for the Northern Hemisphere. During an equinox, days and nights are almost equal and days become shorter afterward.


Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.

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