Accessible Playground Opens in College Station
An inclusive playground for children of all abilities that began with early design work by Texas A&M University landscape architecture students opened Friday in College Station.
Located in Stephen C. Beachy Central Park off Krenek Tap Road, the first phase of the Fun For All Playground includes a splash pad, swings, play equipment and other features. Early concepts for the project – supported through more than $1 million in fundraising by the College Station Rotary Club, Noon Lions and Kiwanis Club, with construction overseen by the city – came from the work of 18 landscape architecture students in 2013.
Eric Bardenhagen, a former associate professor of landscape architecture, led the fall 2013 undergraduate landscape architecture studio along with current Assistant Instructional Professor Kenneth Hurst, who was an urban and regional science Ph.D. student at the time. Bardenhagen said the collaboration between the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, the local service clubs and the city resulted from a connection made by Ward Wells, a Rotary Club member who then was the head of the Department of Architecture.
Bardenhagen said the service clubs and the city recognized the need for a destination playground for special needs children and residents, and brought that general idea to the department. Six teams of students evaluated three city parks, researched age-appropriate play environments for a range of abilities and presented their designs to members of the College Station City Council.
David Schmitz, director of parks and recreation for the city of College Station, said the landscape architecture students who worked on the project helped guide the final design for the Fun For All Playground. The city chose Central Park as the project location, he said, and included several types of play units and sensory areas that were part of the students’ proposed plans.
“This creative input helped tremendously in shaping what the Fun For All Playground will become,” Schmitz said.
Bardenhagen said it’s a perfect example of how ideas generated by student work can become a catalyst for making projects a reality. Hurst added that it’s “wonderful” to see the students’ efforts make a positive contribution to the College Station community.
A former graduate student, Yucheng Wang, was hired in 2014 to bring all of the undergraduate students’ ideas together into a single concept, which was used in brochures during fundraising for the project. Future phases will include construction of the Carolyn and John David Crow Field – a miniature version of Kyle Field – which was another idea that Bardenhagen said originally came from a student, Dante Marotta.
Amanda Haney , one of the former landscape architecture students, said the class learned what it means to be “inclusive” and how it can be applied to design. This included visits to other accessible playgrounds and presenting research, case studies and designs to the city and service clubs.
“We learned about the different ability levels of children and caretakers who may have disabilities, and how to provide fun experiences for all,” Haney said. “We worked closely with playground manufacturers who work in the industry. They provided guidance on product lines, play experiences and budgeting. This informed our designs and allowed us to align our thinking with the users.”
Now an associate at Clark Condon, a landscape architecture firm in Houston, Haney said she applies skills through the project in her work today.
“When we are in school it is usually a theoretical client – the fact that these designs have been translated into an actual destination for the city, it adds a level of accomplishment for the hard work we put in as students and now as emerging professionals,” Haney said. “I cannot wait to visit the park, and love knowing that my fellow classmates and I played a part in a child’s happiness as they play with their friends, no matter their ability level.”
Media contact: Caitlin Clark, 979-458-8412, firstname.lastname@example.org.