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Local nonprofit working to create inclusive playground in Grand Rapids

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 22:31:40-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nestled in the Westside of Grand Rapids and built more than 100 years ago in 1915, Richmond Park is known to be one of the city’s first green spaces.

It could soon be recognized for something else.

“We are trying to raise enough money to get a universally accessible playground,” said Max Trierweiler, co-owner of the Mitten Brewing Company and board member for the Mitten Foundation Inc., the business’ nonprofit.

Trierweiler says the foundation is working to help create the city’s third all-inclusive park. According to the non-profit, John Ball Zoo and Ottawa Hills are also universally accessible.

“It will be a destination for people in the area here,” said Trierweiler.

In August, the city will begin improving the park, using funds from a millage passed by homeowners in 2013.

A city spokesperson says the upgrades include a path around the park’s pond, improved ADA access to the pool building and sled hill, additional benches and grills, and a new playground, but that will happen in 2021 or 2022 depending on funding.

When it does though, the Mitten Foundation wants to make sure all children can use it, so they’re working to raise money to replace the current plan’s wood chipped playground surface with a poured-in-place rubber one.

“It’s not just for a wheelchair,” said Sara Acker, board member. “If you think about a mom with a stroller, a grandma who might have some balance issues, I mean for a lot of different reasons, kids who won’t keep their shoes on who want to run around on the wood chips, we think we can do better.”

The goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of the summer by asking people to sign up for “Fun for All”.

It’s a fitness challenge where participants create their own goals and raise at least $200 while doing so.

According to the Mitten Foundation, the city will match what they raise 2 to 1, meaning the project’s $75,000 costs would be covered.

“It might be doing something for five minutes every day or it might be at the end of the month I’m going to do a marathon,” said Acker. “Movement is so important.”

Whatever it is, the Mitten Foundation says for the 10.7% of homes within the city housing someone with a disability, the nonslip, cushioned, sustainable surface could be a game changer.

“There are a lot of people who would be able to use this who wouldn’t be able to if we didn’t create a universally accessible area,” said Trierweiler. “It’s an easy thing to do. If you live in the City of Grand Rapids, it’s for a great cause and we’re trying to incentivize people and get out there and be active.”

To sign up for the challenge, click here.

To donate without participating, click here.