One of the best things about childhood is that practically everything is new. There are new places to visit; along the way, you might find fun dogs or odd bugs. There are new sounds to hear and textures to feel.
Things that are different are often good things.
That's part of what makes a newly renovated green space in Plano so important. Jack Carter Park has just unveiled the city's first all-abilities playground designed specifically so that children with disabilities can play alongside other active kids. Being different doesn't have to hold anyone back.
Inclusion is evident in every aspect of the park, from the spacious layout and ramps that add wheelchair accessibility to the type of equipment installed. Much of it is low to the ground so children or caregivers can transfer in and out of chairs, and one large jungle gym system features wide wheelchair-accessible ramps so everyone can climb up.
One swing set is designed for lying down for those who aren't able to sit up, and another features a variety of swings to accommodate different needs. You will find swings like those at most any playground next to ones with security bars like those you might see on a roller coaster.
Much of the equipment also features tactile, visual and aural designs for varied sensory experiences, which has been found especially beneficial for those on the Autism spectrum, as well as being part of healthy learning and development for all children.
The all-abilities playground at Jack Carter Park was made possible through a $50,000 donation from the Plano Rotary Club. The 2.61-acre park was recently renovated through a $1.9 million project that also features a pond with a fountain, plaza and trellis.
It is the former location of Jack Carter Pool, which served the area from 1983 until its closure in 2014. ( In 2016, the city opened a new water park carrying the Jack Carter name -- with slides, a lazy river, a climbing wall and a surf simulator -- at a different location nearby.)
Liz Del Turco, senior park planner for the city of Plano, says the old pool was deeply loved by the surrounding community. She's hopeful that area residents will embrace the new playground and renovated park with as much warmth and pride.
It seems like a good fit for that.
Dianne Dillon, supervisor of the city's Adapted Recreation programs, sees the park's potential for enlightenment.
"I'm hoping this park will open eyes for individuals who don't have kids with special needs," Dillon says. "Kids might ask why certain equipment is here, and parents have an opportunity to explain to them or to ask if they don't know."
Dillon says the Adapted Recreation program plans to use the park for outings and camps. In the past, those groups traveled to Hope Park in Frisco for similar outings, but she is excited to finally have an inclusive outdoor space nearby.
McKinney will soon have an all-abilities playground, too. Rotary Clubs there have partnered with the city on a project at Bonnie Wenk Park expected for completion in spring 2018.
The new all-abilities playground at Jack Carter Park is at 2601 Maumelle Drive near Schimelpfenig Middle School in Plano.
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