Visit Carmody Park in Lakewood, Colorado, and you will see children of all ages crawling up and zooming around state-of-the-art play features in the just-opened 13,000-square-foot playground. One boy spins his sister in the barrel roller, while a girl in a wheelchair builds a castle with her dad at the desk-level sandbox. Carmody Park is an incredibly special place, because it is Lakewood’s first universal playground, offering kids of all ages and abilities the chance to play, without limits, alongside each other.
This beautiful new space is the result of many years of work, community partnerships, and one resident-driven master plan, the overall goal of which was to improve recreation offerings and user experience for all park visitors. Throughout the planning process, city staff worked with the community to prioritize the creation of a space that allows visitors of all ages and abilities to enjoy physical, developmental, emotional, and social benefits. The National Center on Accessibility has found that universally accessible playgrounds are extremely important to child development. Research also suggests that children with disabilities are in great need of more access to opportunities for active play and healthy living. Carmody Park playground creates an environment where everyone can learn to understand and respect each other’s differences through play. It also allows for entire families to recreate together, something the Lakewood community has repeatedly called for throughout public meetings and feedback sessions.
The master plan was completed in 2013 and included input from three public meetings, Carmody Middle School students, local sports organizations that frequent the park, program participants and staff from Lakewood Youth Services, as well as our Recreation Inclusion Services for Everyone (R.I.S.E. or Therapeutic Recreation) programming group. The city also gained support and perspective from a local non-profit called Friends of Paha (F.O.P) whose mission is to raise funds to provide scholarships for the City of Lakewood’s Camp Paha, a full-day summer camp for children with disabilities.
After the public process, a master plan was finalized, including these initial phases: build a universal playground inclusive to all ages and abilities; improve the parking and circulation; and enhance utility and programming resources. The accessible play features installed include a wheelchair-accessible wavy walk and glider, a desk-level sandbox for users in wheelchairs, and a transfer station to make it easier to get down into the sandbox. In addition, there are sensory panels throughout the play area, musical instruments, swings, accessible picnic tables and heated restrooms with a changing table, picnic shelters, and wheelchair-accessible hopscotch outlined on the multi-purpose court. The parking lot expansion includes additional ADA parking spaces and a designated pick-up and drop-off space for park users.
During the construction process, the city approached Centura Health with the unique opportunity to partner on the development of an outdoor fitness zone. The outdoor fitness equipment, fully free to use, was to be installed adjacent to the playground so that park visitors would be able to enjoy a workout while watching their children play. Centura ultimately decided to support this park enhancement, so the Carmody Park Outdoor Fitness Zone in partnership with Centura Health was installed, featuring various Greenfield fitness pieces. The soft opening for the playground was in June 2017, followed by a grand opening celebration at the end of July where park users of all ages joined the mayor in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The planning and construction of this project were made possible in part by grants awarded by Great Outdoors Colorado in partnership with Colorado Lottery ($350,000) and Jefferson County Open Space ($700,000).
The playground has revitalized the park and engaged the community in a whole new way. The City of Lakewood summer camps, including Camp Paha, use the playground throughout the summer. The park has played host to new programs including TRX, Zumba, fitness zone demos, and walking meetups. Lakewood Recreation continues to receive positive feedback and comments from the community, ever appreciative of this safe and fun outdoor play space! The Carmody Park playground is a true testament to what is possible when a community works together to achieve a common goal.