ANN ARBOR, MI - The wheels are in motion for one of the most notable additions to Ann Arbor's parks system in recent years.
At the City Council meeting Monday night, Dec. 19, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor presented an oversized check for $450,000 to the city, money that will go toward constructing a $1.1 million universal-access playground at Gallup Park.
"Celebrating our 100th year of service in the community, we wanted to do something special, lasting and unique," Collyer Smith, president of the 330-member Rotary chapter, said of the centennial project.
"What I love about this playground is it allows the opportunity for kids with disabilities to play alongside kids that may not have disabilities, promoting social interaction, thereby lowering the stigma of having a disability."
The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a $430,735 contract with Penchura LLC to supply playground equipment and park furniture for the universal-access playground.
Construction is expected to start in the spring. The playground is designed to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, exceeding the minimum accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to the city, it will include features and surfacing that will be inclusive, stimulating and fun for all users, whether fully independent or with mobility, sensory or visual impairments.
Specific features include a water/sand play area, a sensory garden, adaptive swings and moving play activities such as whirl and spring riders with back supports. Other universally accessible features of the project include
grills, picnic tables, benches, a fishing pier and a canoe/kayak launch.
The project also will reconfigure a portion of the Border-to-Border Trail within the park to make it safer for trail users and children using the play equipment.
City officials previously indicated the new playground would be located in the east section of Gallup Park, near picnic shelters and a youth fishing pond, replacing an existing, antiquated play structure.
A conceptual image by Landscape Structures showing the final design for a universal-access playground coming to Ann Arbor's Gallup Park.
The city also is using a $300,000 state natural resources trust fund grant, with the balance coming from city park funds.
The council approved increasing the project budget from $559,167 to $1,109,167 after accepting the Rotary Club donation Monday night.
"We at the city simply could not be more grateful for the work the Rotary Club has done in this regard," said Mayor Christopher Taylor, calling the playground that's expected to be completed next summer a tremendous benefit
for children with disabilities who require universal access and caregivers with disabilities who want to play with their children.
Council members joined the mayor in thanking the club, as well as the city's parks staff, for their work on the project.
A layout plan for a universal-access playground coming to Ann Arbor's Gallup Park released by the city on Dec. 20, 2016.
"This is just an incredible addition to our parks system and, lucky us, our ward," said Council Member Kirk Westphal, D-2nd Ward, adding the disability community is ecstatic. "We're really overwhelmed by the generosity of local Rotarians and we're really proud that this is going to be part of their legacy here in town."
Council Member Jane Lumm, an independent from the 2nd Ward, echoed those remarks, saying the $550,000 donation from the Rotary Club is the largest donation she can recall the city ever receiving from a private entity.
"There's no question this would not be happening without the Rotary Club's initiative and incredible support, so we are all so excited that this is progressing and there's no question it will be a unique, special asset in the city parks system," she said. "And as I understand, the installation is going to proceed expeditiously basically as soon as the weather allows, with the site work starting in May and they estimate that it will be completed at the end of July."
The city stated in an Aug. 18 update on the project that a design, titled "Abstract to Reality," had been finalized and the drawings would be shared once a construction contract is awarded. The design team included city landscape architect Amy Kuras, SmithGroupJJR and Landscape Structures Inc.
The Ann Arbor News and MLive have requested copies of the latest design drawings for the playground.
"We've never seen anything like this," Lumm said of the project. "And to have this universal-access playground in our community, you know, obviously there's a need, and it will bring so many communities together in an inspiring way."