West Columbia’s planned enabling, inclusive playground is special

West Columbia’s new enabling playground is a big deal to parents and it will make a difference.

“I’m very excited about the park,” said West Columbia City Councilman Tem Miles. ” It’s an opportunity for children of all abilities to play together, to play along side of each other, in our city. That’s special.”

The park, bordered on Hudson and Oliver streets, will be connected to West Columbia’s Riverwalk and it’s being built in the district Miles represents. He has three daughters, and Miles said inclusion is important.

“I have two daughters who are not in a wheelchairs” said Miles. “Now parents will not have to choose. Their children can play with their peers. Playing together is how children form bonds.”

Other parents are also thankful for a park.
“I think it is wonderful that West Columbia will have a park that accommodates people with disabilities and will allow them to have fun, play with their siblings and make new friends,” said Lisa Freeman. Her daughter Carrie is a sixth-grade student with Autism.

West Columbia Mayor Bobby Horton is another advocate.
“The new park will be a distinctive attraction, that is special for West Columbia,” he said. “We’re pleased to be able to offer it.”

To help build the park, State Sen. Nikki Setzler and Rep. Micah Caskey, in March, presented the West Columbia City Council with a $250,000 check from state funds. The park will include equipment- and have full access- for special needs users. The park will be built on property the city has recently acquired near the city‘s Riverwalk and amphitheater.

Miles said he likes the concept of the the park because it will feature a whole playground of equipment, not just a couple of pieces in an isolated area. And all children can play on the equipment.

“Parents would have to choose, but this park will do away with the choice,” said Miles. And unifying all children, benefits more than just parents.

At a Special Olympians rally to celebrate inclusion at the State House in March, a Spring Valley High School student named Eddie, spoke of how his interactions with special needs students has changed him.

“I can honestly say through my experience, that these are some of the most hard working, determined, and most importantly, the coolest of the coolest kids I have ever met,” Eddie said. “They have helped me gain the skills of patience, empathy and compassion that I’m going to need later in life.”

Lana Ward teaches special education at Northside Middle School. She has taught special ed children for more than 20 years. She is on the committee planning the park.

“When kids without special needs play with kids with special needs, they find out that all kids want the same things,” Ward said. “From playing together, the kids learn that they are much more alike than they are different. And that’s good for the development of all children.”

The park being planned for West Columbia will be similar to Savannah’s Playground in Myrtle Beach. It opened in September of 2016 and is named for Savannah Thompson, a student with Williams Syndrome. When she was four-years-old, complications from a surgery gave her brain damage and forced her into a coma. Savannah has not let her disabilities stop her from having a full life

Savannah’s Playground is described as an enabling playground featuring ADA-approved playground equipment and structures designed to provide children of all abilities the opportunity for play.

Myrtle Beach leaders called the playground beautiful and a great asset to the community and families who have children with special needs. The park is designed to provide a great environment and a great experience for the children.

Miles expects West Columbia’s park to be a big hit, too. And it offers other benefits. he said the park, and its parking lot will increase access to Riverwalk.

“It will provide additional parking,” said Miles. “We’ve needed that for years.”

Setzler, when presenting the check to council, said the river has always been a focal point for commerce and activity for West Columbia, so it’s good to add the park as a feature.

There are many wonderful things in West Columbia, and the new park for children of all abilities is just another asset that makes the city unique.

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