There’s something for every kid at new Draper playgroundNov 01, 2022 07:30PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
It’s a massive, colorful structure with a multitude of play opportunities for many children all at once. It boasts the tallest slide in the state (30 feet) and another slide that allows multiple children or a child with a caregiver to slide together. Most importantly, 90% of the equipment can be used by anyone of any ability. The excitement in the air among children and adults alike was palpable as hundreds came to its grand opening Oct. 18 at Draper Park.
“We want it to be inclusive and be a legacy for everybody to enjoy,” councilmember Fred Lowry said as he cut the ribbon to officially open the new play structure.
“It truly is a generational gift to the city. Let’s have fun!” said Rhett Ogden, Draper’s director of Parks and Recreation.
Among the special guests for the grand opening were Ethan Cookson, his dad, Michael and their family. Councilmember Mike Green met Michael and Ethan several years ago when Green was knocking on doors campaigning. Michael Cookson told Green he had to drive his wheelchair-bound son to a park in another city just for the opportunity to play. “He told me there was a big need for something like this,” Green said.
The majority of the new structure was manufactured by PlayWorld, but the Ability Whirl merry-go-round came all the way from England.
“We specifically gave input on the merry-go-round. We knew that the GL Jones merry-go-round built in England could fit more kids and Rhett Ogden said he wanted to make it happen,” Michael Cookson said.
“It shipped across the ocean, but it was worth it,” Ogden said.
This special park has been years in the making. Prior to Covid, Salt Lake County offered funds to help Draper construct an all-abilities park at the county’s Wheadon Farm Park. With the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, the county wasn’t certain if they could commit the funds, but Draper’s city council persevered and asked the county if the structure could instead be built at Draper Park. According to City Manager David Dobbins, Salt Lake County gave $500,000 to the project which had a total price tag of $1.6 million.
More delays happened since the city broke ground for the project in March with a goal of a grand opening during Draper Days in July. Construction was delayed by supply chain issues and the concrete shortage. In early October, it was vandalized by people who broke through the fencing to access the playground, leaving footprints in the poured rubber flooring before it had time to fully cure. Surveillance cameras were installed at the site and the city pleaded with people to be patient.
One other reason for the delay? “Quite honestly, it took longer to assemble because it’s one of a kind and unique. It’s so custom, they’d never done anything like it,” Ogden said.
Charlee Rogers and her parents Cody and Jaycee live minutes from the park. Cody said they’d been driving by every few weeks to watch the progress of the park being built.
The Bess family moved to Draper from Las Vegas in July because their daughter, Livie, was getting care at Primary Children’s. They live near Steep Mountain Park and enjoy taking their kids to play there, but there was nothing that Livie could access at that park. The parents reached out to Ogden to inquire about the possibility of one piece of equipment, such as a swing, that would be accessible to children with disabilities. They had no idea that Draper was building the all-abilities park and were delighted when they heard the news. They said Ogden has been in contact with them ever since with updates as the park came together.
“My hope would be that every park would be all inclusive. My future goal is to have more of these parks or for each park to have one inclusive piece of equipment (such as a swing). It’s a world I didn’t know about at all until we had Livie,” Randy Bess said. “This is a great first step.”