Limited editions

We’re excited to have Jill Moore, marketing specialist at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger today. Read on to learn a little more about this North Carolina native, and be sure to check back as Jill will be a regular contributor. In fact, you should subscribe so that you’ll receive notifications of all our new posts by email.

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I’m terrible at keeping up with current politically correct labels. It’s a real problem in my life because as a wheelchair user, you’d think I’d be an authority on it. However, I’m not sure what the term is this week. It moves from handicapped to wheelchair-bound, to disabled or special needs. Differently-abled. Handi-capable. I’ve heard it all.

When people ask me what I’d rather be called, I typically just go with “Jill works just fine.” Otherwise, I think everything else carries a flimsy stigma to it. Disabled, handicapped, special needs—it’s boring and it sounds lesser. We’re all differently-abled. Every time I get called “handi-capable,” a part of me can’t help but cringe, and I’m certainly not bound to my wheelchair by any means. I used to giggle when little kids asked me if I sleep in my wheelchair, but I am astounded by the amount of people that I encounter who believe this is a permanent setup. A wheelchair is just another mobility aid. It’s closer to a pair of shoes or glasses than a permanent implant. That, however, is a rant for a different day.

I was born with Spina Bifida. Essentially, this means I was born with a hole in my spine, which caused the lower half of my body to develop differently than my peers. At age 7, I popped a squat into a manual wheelchair and I stuck with it from then on. I’ve learned, however, that using a wheelchair makes me appear different enough to make people want to throw a label on me. I’ve never thought much about what I’d prefer that label to be until recently, and it started with a playground.

Since starting my journey in the world of playgrounds two years ago, I’ve met some incredible people with incredible stories. They all have one thing in common—an astounding penchant for spreading play to every single child. These are parents, friends, grandparents, community advocates—people of all walks of life who are taking the time to teach all children that they matter. This story comes from Buffalo, N.Y.

It was a snowy day in November. I was beyond tired, totally not wearing a warm enough jacket, hadn’t had nearly enough snacks that day, and if you ask me—it’s not supposed to snow until midnight on Dec. 24, and not a moment sooner. A colleague and I were scoping out an inclusive playground in the area. We pulled in to see a man painstakingly removing snow from each of the shade structures on the playground. Those aren’t usually kept up during the winter due to snow weighing them down, so for someone to be religiously removing the snow seemed like a huge labor of love in itself. We pulled in and greeted the man, and I soon learned him to be the head and the heart behind the playground itself—Jason Evchich.

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Jason is one of those people that speaks with contagious enthusiasm. The first thing that he told us was that he hated the term “special needs.” I had to agree with him on that one, but I had to find out why that term irked him so much. Turns out, Jason has three kids. Two of which, Mason and Matthew, were born with an undiagnosed form of what I later learned to be known as Hypomyelinating Leukodystrophy. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry—I had to do some research of my own. It’s so rare that it doesn’t even formally have a name—just a number. This condition hindered their development to the point that they can’t walk, talk or join their older sister, McKenna, in play.

He hated the idea of his children being stuck with the “special needs” label just because they had to move differently—and even more, he hated the idea of them being left on the outskirts of play. With that, he introduced us to his preferred term, “limited edition.” When we hear something is limited edition, we don’t think it lesser. We think of it as unique, special, one of a kind, probably expensive, and any number of alternative cool titles before we hit the idea that it’s different in a negative way.

Jason was SO passionate about bringing play to his children that he was ready to build a public playground in his backyard for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. His wife wasn’t entirely on board with their backyard being the neighborhood hot spot, so they compromised and built Mason’s Mission just across the street. With the idea of an inclusive playground for all of his children to play together and make new friends in mind, Mason’s Mission was founded and a force was rallied to build an inclusive playground so that children of all abilities could join in play.

It’s safe to say that all of us are Limited Edition in some variety. Nobody fits into the perfect box of a “normal human.” We’re all unique. We’re all special. We’re all one-of-a-kind, and I have to say, Limited Edition was finally a label I was pretty excited to say I belonged to.

Building play spaces to support community healing

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Earlier this year, we became KaBOOM!’s Partner in Play. That means we’re their primary supplier of commercial playground equipment, and we partner with them to build playspaces in communities in need across the United States, Canada and Mexico. And this summer, building playspaces is exactly what we’ve been doing. Together with KaBOOM!, we completed more than 30 playground builds during the months of June and July, and we’re on target to complete 13 more before August is over.

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It’s more than just the numbers. The playspaces that KaBOOM! builds help ensure that all kids have great, safe places to play. In fact, a single build in June–at the Abbott House in Irvington, N.Y.–impacted more than 500 kids! Abbott House is an organization that supports children in foster care, unaccompanied immigrant children, and other vulnerable populations while providing a place for healing. And the new playground is sure to deliver an additional source of restoration needed kids and their families.

Held during Morgan Stanley’s annual Global Volunteer Month, Morgan Stanley employees withstood the blistering heat to help transform a 50-year-old rundown and unsafe playground into a brightly-colored play space with slides, climbers and playground spinners. They were joined by enthusiastic Abbott House staff and volunteers who embraced the opportunity to transform the space. At the end of the day, the playground space was complete. Volunteers stood silent, many with tears in their eyes, as a group of children, recently transported to Abbott House, thanked them for their hard work.

To learn why play matters for all kids, visit KaBOOM! and join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with #playmatters and #PLAYceforKids. Get more details about our partnership with KaBOOM!

Supporting state parks and recreation associations and their members

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We are excited to announce the 11th Annual State Speaker Scholarship Program has launched! The 2019-2020 program will support the appearances of keynote speakers at state parks and recreation associations’ annual or regional conferences. State associations that are chosen will receive a scholarship of $2,500.

Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2009, Landscape Structures has awarded nearly 250 scholarships to state associations and more than $600,000 to support the appearances of speakers at park and recreation conferences throughout the nation. To complete an application for Landscape Structures’ 2019-2020 State Association Speaker Scholarship, visit playlsi.com/speaker-scholarship/.

Splashing for the whole community

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It is easy to be overwhelmed in the variety of design options offered by Aquatix by Landscape Structures. The best practice is to design your splash pad for variability and play value. Start by answering the following questions:

  • Who will use the spray park?
  • What types of spray features should you include?
  • Where is your water playground located?
  • When will the splash pad be used?

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Create areas that cater to specific age groups. Typically, younger players enjoy a gentler water experience than older kids, while older kids prefer highly interactive features with high volumes of water. It’s also important to choose equipment at various heights so children of all abilities can reach the spray elements and engage with their peers. Overlap for different ages and abilities should be considered to provide opportunity for children to participate and play together rather than just alongside each other. All these factors help create a fully inclusive environment to welcome all children and families.

Splash pads are highly interactive facilities. Simple ground sprayers can add plenty of interactivity that meets a variety of sensory inputs. Structures like the HydraHub2 combine traditional playground structures, and all their fun with water elements. Dynamic play components provide endless aqua play excitement with dumping and splashing that provides a big payload of water plus an element of suspense. Interactive play products like the JetStream encourage kids to experience water in novel ways through game-based events and innovative cause-and effect activities. Users of all ages can experience a variety of water flows, sprays or mists to run through with water products like the RippleRun.

Splash pads are fun play environments. However, designers can maximize the play experience through color, spray patterns and interactive elements. Through thoughtful design, a fun and colorful splash pad can tell a story and guide users through the environment. Spray parks can incorporate the history and culture of the surrounding neighborhood with themes. And even better, themed spray parks may encourage imaginative play among children as they interact with the splash play products.

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Lights can be added to components to create accents that transform the splash pad space into a visual experience at night. Some parks have set their splash pads to become water and light shows during evening hours to maintain interest in the space.

Learn more about designing a fun and safe water playground for everyone.

Keep your cool with heavy duty shade sails

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Branford Park, California

From small shade to big shade, decorative shade to themed shade, we offer flexible and stylish commercial shade sails for everywhere people like to gather. SkyWays® by Landscape Structures offers the largest reprieve from the sun’s rays to provide cool and reliable shade for any play, rest and activity area!

Recreational areas such as tennis courts, fitness parks, playgrounds and dog parks; outdoor activity spaces such as zoos, amusement parks, waterparks and splash pads; public/community spaces like pavilions; and corporate locations, hotels and airports all benefit from the addition of commercial shade structures. Our sun shade structures are available in a variety of standard shapes and sizes, and these industrial shade canopies can be customized to fit the unique requirements of your environment.

SkyWays shade structures are unmatched in materials, design, engineering and manufacturing, and successfully block up to 97 percent of harmful UV rays from the sun and keep areas beneath up to 30-degrees cooler. Even more, SkyWays by Landscape Structures is certified to ISO 9001-2015, ISO 14001-2015 and AISC for steel building structures so customers can be assured that they are working with a manufacturing facility dedicated to providing the highest quality and most durable heavy duty shade structures.

Learn more about commercial sun shade sails and structures from SkyWays by Landscape Structures.

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Lincoln Heights Recreation Center, California

Principals give back to the local community

On Monday, more than 100 principals representing the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) came together to build a playground at Adams Elementary School in Spokane, Wash. The community service day was part of the 2019 NAESP Pre-K-8 Principals Conference held in Spokane.

The school playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features playground slides, climbers, and activity panels in addition to overhead events and bridges. The playground is ADA compliant and designed to welcome children of all abilities. In addition to building the playground, principal volunteers participated in landscaping, painting and other beautification projects at the school.

As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the build. This community service day marks the 11th anniversary of our partnership with NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school.

See more about the playground build from KXLY.com and The Spokesman-Review.

Planning an Inclusive Splash Pad

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Splash pads are a great way to make aquatic play accessible. Even though splash pads may be accessible to those with differing abilities, this does not make them fully inclusive inherently. Designing bigger and more exciting splash pads does not necessarily make a splash pad more inclusive. In fact, bigger and more exciting often adds barriers for some individuals. Designing for inclusion requires extra consideration  in the design process, but typically very little consideration for extra budget or maintenance.

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Splash pads should be designed as an aquatic play environment comprised of features that maximize the sensory and cognitive stimulation for children of all physical and mental abilities and is designed to encourage all children to play together and with the same features. Play features that are wheelchair height accessible and adequate turn-around space between elements are important aspects to consider in design. Other considerations should be made for how children with autism or other sensory differences may approach such a space: is there a balance between intense and more gentle water play? How will the various sounds and sights affect those playing in this space?

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From the design of the splash pad feature, to the methods of accessing the site, be conscious of barriers to access and address them early in the design process. For instance, assure that there are adequate handicapped parking spaces and that the path from parking to the splash pad location does not contain any obstacles.

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All splash pads should be developed utilizing a rule of thumb for one child every 25 square feet of active water spray. Splash pads are an excellent opportunity for park agencies to develop safe play areas that encourage people of differing ages and abilities to experience water play.

To learn more about Splash Pad products, visit the Aquatix website.