Sticking to its true form, “Service Above Self,” the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor decided to celebrate its Centennial year by giving back to the community and so, the Rotary Centennial Playground, a Universal Access Playground was born. The Grand Opening will take place this Sunday, Sept. 17, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Rotary Centennial Playground is located in Gallup Park, the most popular park in Washtenaw County with an estimated 600,000 visitors per year. The playground’s construction in the most favored park is significant because it will expand the impact of the UAP, specifically designed to accommodate the needs of children with disabilities, offering these children opportunities to gain self-confidence and greater independence. It is equipped with facets like wheelchair ramp width and surrounding surface stability that meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor’s website.
“The UAP provides Ann Arbor with a world class playground where inclusivity is the ultimate goal. Children of all ages and abilities can develop and play together. Additionally, caregivers with disabilities can engage, supervise, and interact with their children,” said Colin Smith, Manager, City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services.
Its theme is a fairy-occupied, mystical wonderland, where children will have the opportunity to set foot into a different world by stretching their imagination with the themed playground pieces around them. Composed of three parts, the park sports Woodland, River, and Prairie regions.
“It’s a fantastic design and the reason it’s so wonderful is that it gives children the opportunity to be a fairy in fairyland and to have fun and be excited to be there,” said Carolyn Grawi, Center for Independent Living.
Grawi and her team were part of the design process so the city and rotary could make sure things were up to par.
“Nowhere in the community did we have fully inclusive place for everyone to play. All of us have a child inside wanting to play and be included,” said Grawi. “We are always looking to create more opportunities for everyone to be included by looking for holes in the community to make it a whole.”
A bevy of activities will be open to the public at this weekend’s Grand Opening Celebration. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m., guests can enjoy live music with Steve Hawthorn playing steel drums, animals from Leslie Science & Nature Center, educational activities with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and a fishing area for kids.
Mouthwatering food truck vendors including Pita Cruiser, Ray’s Red Hots, EJ’s Gourmet Street Cuisine and Wood Fired Up will be onsite, but guests can also pack a picnic.
Additionally, the Mayor, Rotary President, and a representative from the Department of Natural Resources are expected to speak, according to Smith.
“It’s a great opportunity to see this fantastic addition to the parks and to celebrate with community members,” said Smith.
The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor donated $550,000 to fund the playground. Supplemental support also came from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant ($300,000) and the City of Ann Arbor’s Park Maintenance and Capital Improvements Millage ($150,000), according to Blackmer.
Between 2 to 7 p.m. attendees can hop on a free shuttle service to the park. Pick-up locations can be found on the site map pdf at this link: https://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/parks-places/Pages/Universal-Access-Playground.aspx. Gallup Park is located at 3000 Fuller Rd.
“We, at the Rotary Club, the City of Ann Arbor, and those involved with the design and construction of the playground, want everyone in Southeast Michigan to know about and use this project,” said Chuck Blackmer, Chair of the Rotary’s Centennial Committee.
Grawi hopes attendance reaches 1,000 guests at the opening this Sunday and encourages as many families and community members to join as are able.