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North Little Rock opens second accessible playground

Daniel Breen
North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Director Steve Shields cuts the ribbon to open the city's second accessible playground.

Kids with special needs have a new place to play in central Arkansas.

North Little Rock city officials opened a new accessible playground on Tuesday between the city’s community center and the William F. Laman Public Library. This marks the second accessible playground in the city, with the first opening in Burns Park in 2017.

Jerilyn Wasson was instrumental in constructing the first playground, lobbying the city to create a space where her daughter Emma could safely play.

“This is what North Little Rock has done. It has said, not only do we see you and hear you, we’re going to build a special place for you where you feel loved, included, and where you feel like you belong in this city,” Wasson said. “And I can tell you, for parents of a special needs kiddo, that means so much to us.”

The playground at Laman Plaza features 35 play elements and the capacity to hold 269 kids. Amber Havens, therapeutic recreation program coordinator for the City of North Little Rock, says the space encourages kids of all abilities to play.

Daniel Breen
Children play at the new accessible playground in downtown North Little Rock on Dec. 14, 2021.

“Most elements are wheelchair friendly via ramp and transfer stations. This playground includes a Cruiser, which is a wheelchair-accessible glider rocker, an Orbit, which is a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round, the new universal Brava swing where kids of different abilities can get on there at the same time and play,” Havens said.

She hopes to add more changing facilities to the playground’s restrooms, as well as a lending library for toys and other play equipment. Havens says the city is already planning for future improvements to the space.

“We’d like to have outdoor classroom spaces, which would be groupings of outdoor, accessible picnic tables and shade structures. These would be used by both the library and the Parks and Recreation Department for community programs that teach art, education, health,” Havens said.

In addition to play elements, the playground also features a communication board with words in both English and Spanish, as well as images for non-verbal visitors. The playground was constructed through a partnership with the Laman Library and the City of North Little Rock Parks and Recreation.