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Greenwich Playground Strives To Fit Needs of All

On warm summer days, the Bruce Park Playground in Greenwich is filled with children running, jumping, climbing and, well, playing. However, few realize the park was renovated specifically with children of all abilities in mind, and they are still working on the finishing touches.

“It’s not quite finished yet,” said Catherine Youngman of the Junior League of Greenwich, the all-volunteer women’s organization that took on the project. “We have ideas, but we want to make sure the equipment we choose fits the idea of side-by-side play — that all children can enjoy.”

The Boundless playground is one of the league’s success stories, though some areas are still untouched by play equipment. The members are in the planning stages, trying to choose the most affordable and best additions to the popular playground. The park is designed so all children, including those with developmental, cognitive and sensory challenges, can play side-by-side.

“Playground equipment has come a long way, and they all address motor skills in different ways,” said Youngman. “The obvious is hanging or swinging, but there are new ways to engage all those senses.”

Toddlers can rock, ride, spin, slide and pull-up on brightly colored equipment in a safe, fenced area. An “enchanted forest” features imaginative play with hollowed-out tree trunks and a bird’s nest with eggs. The park’s sand pit has a wheelchair dock to allow parents to safely help a disabled child in.

Quiet areas of the park allow for escape. “We had children’s groups and parents who would tell us, ‘Usually if my child has a meltdown, we have to go home,’ so we tried to give them quiet places where they can hang out, regroup, and come back,” said Liz Van Duyne, another member.

The park’s growing maze is wide enough for a wheelchair and challenges children to find their way to the center and back again. The Native American village has a dugout canoe and a fire pit surrounded by benches, a tribute to the original residents of Greenwich. A sensory garden includes plants with soft leaves for touching and flowers for smelling.

On the left side of the park, older children can play on a hillside slide, swing on adaptive swings with back support, explore a barrier-free jungle-gym area for 5 to 10 year olds, and climb on a winding rock-climbing zone.

Interpretive signs throughout the park provide children with added activities and information about the park. Van Duyne pointed to graphic images used as communication tools for children with autism or language disabilities.

Next up for the Junior League is a project to rejuvenate the Byram Shore Park with a new pool to replace the current pool, which is known for leaking chlorine into the cove waters. The league does extensive research, fundraising and coordinating with community partners before any undertaking, and the Byram pool will be no exception, said Anne Miller, president of the group.

Do you take your kids to the Boundless playground? What kind of changes do you think need to be made at the Byram Shore Park?

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