Children of all ages — and abilities — can play at the new Meridian Habitat Park playground on the corner of 144th St. East and Meridian Ave. on South Hill.
The playground, which opened with a ribbon-cutting by Pierce County Parks and Recreation on Oct. 29, is the first playground to be constructed in the park.
Playground equipment is accessible to all children and includes a net-climbing structure, a large disk swing, a tree house, spinning swings and a listening trunk that allows two friends to talk to each other from across the park.
“The surfacing is wheelchair accessible and conducive to all abilities,” said Kimberly Freeman, resource stewardship superintendent for Pierce County Parks and Recreation. “The net climber can be accessed from low levels and high levels.”
The net climber is an exciting addition to the playground, according to Freeman.
“Net climbers are fairly new in the world of parks,” she said. “It’s certainly the first one in our system.”
Not only is it new, but it’s accessible, says special education paraeducator Betsy Stubbs, who has worked for the Puyallup School District for 10 years.
“When you look at the dome for kids to climb, it’s made out of this wonderful rope element,” Stubbs said. “It has different sizes and shapes and different crawling spaces. Not only can they sit in the middle of this dome, but it’s got a little bit of spring so that the children can sooth themselves with the back and forth movement.”
Stubbs, who works with 3- and 4-year-olds with special needs who are being introduced to a school format and learning, is an advocate for getting playground equipment into parks that are accessible to children like ones in her care.
“I’ve been working with Pierce County for many years on the property and pushing for a park,” Stubbs said. “If the park cannot meet the needs of our special children, then it’s not a public park. It must reach out and make accommodations and modifications to assist children with physical (disabilities) or (who are) autistic to allow them to play with each other and have fun. Pierce County has (been) caring and thoughtful.”
The playground is an estimated 5,000 square feet and is located out of view of Meridian Avenue, optimizing a nature setting for the playground.
There are boulders and logs to play on, said Freeman, and some of the logs from the forest were installed as part of the playground’s listening trunk.
It’s kind of up against the trees and provides direct access to the adjacent wooded area. It has some respite from the street in that you can’t hear the traffic or see the cars quite as much, which lends to that nature theme that we want.
Benjamin Barrett, project manager for Pierce County Parks and Recreation
“It’s kind of up against the trees and provides direct access to the adjacent wooded area,” said project manager Benjamin Barrett. “It has some respite from the street in that you can’t hear the traffic or see the cars quite as much, which lends to that nature theme that we want.”
Pierce County Parks and Recreation staff started working on implementing a playground several years ago.
“Two years ago we started working with a small handful of citizens,” Freeman said. “We knew they wanted a playground and we made sure we got input from folks of all different ages. There have been folks in the community who’ve envisioned this (park) for years.”
More plans for Meridian Habitat Park are in store, which staff hopes to see implemented next year, including new restrooms, trails and signage.
“This was just phase one of the playground,” Freeman said. “Next year we have in the budget to redo the courtyard so the entryway will having more sitting areas.”