Terri McBride pushed her son up a ramp and onto a swaying ride, and he smiled as she rocked him back and forth at Riverview Park on Wednesday.
“He loved that,” she said.
It was the first time Marquise, a wheelchair-bound 10-year-old, has been able to experience what many children his age take for granted – playing on the playground.
A few minutes later, about six able-bodied first graders giggled as they rocked themselves on the same ride. Meanwhile, Marquise’s teeth chattered excitedly as he took his first ride in a swing.
The park, which was officially opened at a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, was designed for children like Marquise, and others in North Augusta.
“We’ve never been able to do anything but just walk around and watch other kids play,” Terri McBride said. “He’s been having a good time ever since this started, just listening to them talk.”
Around him, abled-bodied and children with various disabilities played tag, swang, slid and played on the monkey bars together.
That is the purpose of the new adaptive playground.
“A lot of people thought at one point we were just building a playground for special needs kids and I went, ‘No!’ ” said Rick Meyer, director of the North Augusta Department of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services.
Mayor Lark Jones called the playground historic, because for the first time children with disabilities have full access to the same playground equipment as other children.
“This is historic because this park is for all children, regardless of who they are or what their condition is. They can play together, and that’s a wonderful thing,” Jones said.
The playground’s surface is spongy, which will minimize injury if someone falls. Wide ramps allow wheelchair access to every part of the playground.
Much of the equipment is made of durable plastic, which will withstand the weather while eliminating many common safety hazards.
Different stations throughout the playground allow children to work a puzzle or play music.
There are also slides, which are low, wide and plastic.
“It’s all functional and it’s very easy for the families to use,” said Pam Stickler, executive director of the REC’ing Crew. She was on the committee that helped design the playground.
Stickler’s 33-year-old son, Stephen, has cerebral palsy and she founded the REC’ing Crew to give him and others with special needs a recreational outlet.
“I always believed when he was younger, that if kids could accept him when he was younger, that when he’s an adult and when they’re adults they’re going to understand him and there wouldn’t be a stigma,” she said.
“The other children don’t see them as being different when they’re on the playground. I don’t think you’re going to see anybody sitting on the sides wishing they could participate.”