17 Apr Partnership for Children Park and Miracle Field Grand Opening
On Saturday, crowds of families gathered in Smithfield, NC, to celebrate the grand opening of the Partnership for Children Park and Miracle Field. This is the first inclusive park in Johnston County. It was developed by the Partnership to Build a Miracle, and WithersRavenel was honored to provide environmental, planning, civil engineering, and landscape architecture services to bring their vision to life.
Inclusive facilities are designed with the needs of children and adults of various abilities and challenges in mind. The Johnston County school system estimates that nearly 4,000 students within the area live with a developmental delay or physical disability. A 2015 study found that 1 in 5 adults has some type of disability. Prior to the creation of this park, there were no playgrounds or ball fields in the county to serve those children or adults, which meant many were unable to participate in important team-building opportunities, social interactions and physical activities.
The Partnership to Build a Miracle is a joint effort of the Johnston County Partnership for Children and the Town of Smithfield. The organization was created to raise awareness of the need for inclusive facilities in the area and to solicit private donations for this project.
The Partnership to Build a Miracle secured approximately five acres within Smithfield Community Park for the development of the Partnership for Children Park and Miracle Field. The inclusive playground consists of both manufactured and specially designed elements to encourage activity, imagination, natural play, in an inclusive environment. The majority of the play elements and pathways are accessible for wheelchairs and those with physical challenges. The design also addresses those who need special consideration for their mental or sensory needs, such as quiet, calm areas for autistic children. Children of all abilities will find the park stimulating and fun with unique play elements and intriguing land forms.
In addition to the playground, the park includes a Miracle League baseball field. Key considerations for a Miracle field are an exceptionally level playing surface for children rounding bases in wheelchairs or on crutches, a non-slip surface texture that is easy to maneuver on while still providing a cushion against injury, and construction materials free from common allergens and irritants such as solvents or latex. Durable, low-maintenance materials are also a plus. All of these and more can be found in the park’s baseball diamond.
The grand opening was celebrated with speeches, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the inaugural Miracle League games on the new field. Gary Warner, WithersRavenel’s Director of Parks and Recreation, attended the event on behalf of the firm. He described the celebration this way: “A couple hundred people attended as well as City and County staff and politicians. There were lots of happy kids with happier parents. The excitement of the children in the park was contagious.”
Gary and the staff of WithersRavenel’s Parks & Recreation group are vocal supporters of planning for, designing, funding, and constructing inclusive facilities. They believe everyone should have access to parks and playgrounds that accommodate their special needs and enable play—in short, they believe that all facilities should be inclusive facilities. Seeing the Partnership for Children Park and Miracle Field alive with so many smiling faces, Gary concluded, “This is why we do what we do.”