Since the installation of an all-inclusive playground in Maple Park in 2019, the Glendale Community Services and Parks Department has hosted its Maple Inclusive Play Day at the park every third Saturday of the month.
Designed by Shane Inspiration, a nonprofit that specializes in providing communities with playgrounds accessible to children with disabilities, the playground at Maple Park was created with ramps, comparatively lower swings and dumbbells, and a smooth, flat ground surface as opposed to woodchips to make it easier for children in wheelchairs to get around.
“In your traditional playground, if you had kids in wheelchairs and with disabilities, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the amenities of that playground,” said Kenneth Khan, community services supervisor at the Community Services and Parks Department. “This playground is very helpful and useful because it’s open to an entire demographic, whether the child has a condition or whether they don’t have a condition. Either way, the playground works.”
Maple Inclusive Play Days invite children of all abilities to come out and enjoy the playground, engage in special arts and crafts activities and socialize with each other. Each play day has a theme, often designated by holidays or seasons.
During the July MIP Day, children celebrated the summer theme while exploring the castle playground, cooling off with water play and decorating popsicle printouts with papier mâché. Additionally, the Glendale branch of 360 Behavioral Health, which offers programs, services and care to individuals with autism and other developmental delays, hosted a booth at the play day for the first time.
Crystal Wagner, a clinical supervisor at 360 Behavioral Health, said the organization was looking to find community partners to help spread the word about the work 360 does.
“We wanted to let people here know that we have services really close by,” she said, adding that their office is three blocks from the park. “We work with autism, doing a lot of support and working to bring resources and foster inclusivity.”
Marilyn Estrada, a Glendale parent, told the News-Press she heard about MIP Day from her 3-year-old son’s behavioral therapist at 360.
“It’s our first play day,” Estrada said as her son climbed the castle walls of the playground. “I love the concept of this playground.”
With the hot weather Glendale has been experiencing, the July play day was not as busy as other months have been. Khan said each play day averages around 70 children spread out over the course of the day, including families occasionally traveling from other cities.
“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback,” Khan said. “We’ve actually had families from surrounding cities like Eagle Rock and Atwater Village who come out on Saturdays or even other days of the week just to come to our particular playground, because their cities don’t offer those playgrounds yet. So that’s one thing that makes us feel special.”
First published in the July 22 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.