More than 100 people gathered Saturday at Southside Park in Tyler to help build the city’s first all-inclusive, accessible playground.
“It’s been years in the making for this, so we’re really super excited about the project and super excited that you’re a part of it,” Tyler Area AMBUCS president and Southside Park project coordinator Amanda Storer told the morning volunteers.
Some $650,000 is funding the project, with half of that coming from private donations raised by Tyler Area AMBUCS and the other half coming from the city of Tyler through its Half-Cent Sales Tax program. Once complete, the playground, which will span about 14,000 square feet, will be accessible for people in wheelchairs and those who have difficulty walking.
Casey Weiss with Child’s Play Inc., the playground developer, said he does as many as five volunteer installations a year and never sees as many people as were waiting to help Saturday. Representatives from Child’s Play were on hand to direct the work.
Volunteers split into groups to work on swing sets, make and pour concrete, assemble fence-type structures and pick up trash.
Storer said more work would have to be done after the community build day with the grand opening set for late October.
The idea for the playground dates back to 2013, when Storer heard about it at a national conference for AMBUCS, which is a nonprofit charitable organization that exists to inspire mobility and independence.
She approached the city at the time to see if they had anything in the works and officials encouraged her to get something started. She did and through partnerships and community support the idea is becoming a reality.
Volunteers included AMBUCS members, college students and interested community members.
Hestela Rios, 37, of Bullard, was among a group of second-year physical therapy assistant students volunteering. Storer is the students’ instructor so they said they’ve been hearing about the project and wanted to be a part.
“The whole concept of the park is an amazing thing for the community,” Rios said.
Bethany Bell, 21, of Tyler, said, “It’s cool to just be a part of it. We can be helping hands.”