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Forsyth County’s first all-inclusive park coming to Kernersville

KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- Orange plastic fencing and jack hammers pounding the pavement are some of the sights and sounds at Kernersville's Fourth of July Park. Sure it looks more like a construction zone than a park. But Kernersville Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Pages said in a few short days, the work will be worth it.

"Special. It makes us feel special. A lot of parks and recs are doing it and saying, 'Wow we need to do something about this,'" Pages said.

In Kernersville, the 13-year-old playset is coming down. Going up in its place is Forsyth County's first all-inclusive playground.

"So the playground can now be used by all children with sensory disabilities, mental disabilities and physical disabilities," Pages said. "All can come and play together with able bodied children as well."

The inclusive playset will have ramps that will allow kids in wheelchairs to get to the second and third levels. Swings will be installed that will allow parent and child to swing together. Kids with disabilities will have a sense of freedom. So the new playground is named Freedom Playground. It's a name UNC Greensboro student intern Mariah Glynn agrees with.

"They don't think about it as being something for people with disabilities," Glynn said. "They think about it as something for everyone to be together."

Alexandra Hull is also a UNCG student intern with a background in therapeutic recreation. She also feels Freedom Park will help all children.

"We want people to understand that when you come out here you are able to explore your senses and have the freedom that you might not have been able to have with a regular playground," Hull said.

Play rubber replaces mulch that is normally placed around playsets. According to Pages, the play rubber provides some comfort when kids fall and allows wheelchairs to easily move across the playground.

"If you had a wheelchair, it would sink into the mulch and it was hard to transverse for grandparents in wheelchairs or walkers."

While Freedom Playground will get all of the attention, there are other inclusive play objects scattered across Fourth of July Park. Children with attention deficit disorder can play with bongo drums or xylophones that are positioned along the walking paths. Plus there's a new pathway people in wheelchairs can use. So folks will have an easier time getting to picnic shelters.

"There was no real way for someone in a wheelchair or walker to get from the parking lot to the shelters without going all the way around," Pages said. "So we used a shortcut."

Most of the information Pages is using to make Fourth of July Park accessible isn't coming from a manual. It's coming from people that use wheelchairs everyday.

"I was pushing one person in a wheelchair and she had some trash," said Pages. "We rolled to the trash can that was off of the trail and I couldn't get her back out."

As a result, trash cans are now on concrete slabs.

The Town of Kernersville covered the roughly $220,000 price tag to make Fourth of July Park accessible. Work should be finished in time for the Saturday ribbon cutting. The event will be at Fourth of July Park in Kernersville from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.