All Abilities Park, playground coming into focus

ST. GEORGE — After numerous delays, the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground – located next to the Tonaquint Nature Center on Dixie Drive – is nearing completion. The road has been long and winding, stretching from idea to master plan to groundbreaking and now to near-fruition. The features and landscaping are under construction, the grand opening is likely only months away, and a sense of excitement is building around the project.

Train tracks at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Train tracks at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Project Manager Mark Goble said that after years of planning and fundraising, seeing the construction of the facilities is particularly gratifying. He said:

I’m really excited for the completion of this project. It has been many years in the making. We’re ready for it to be done so it can be of benefit to the community. The community is very excited about this project. This is the type of project that has been needed for a certain group of individuals in this city. That group … has been very excited to have someplace they can go and play with their families … (it’s) just a great facility to accommodate them.

It’s really nice to see things being built and coming to fruition because it’s just been a long time coming to get this thing up and built. And to see the structures go up, to see things form out here on the site, to see the water feature, this volcano structure, it’s really amazing to see, and we see there’s an end in sight.

Kent Perkins, director of Leisure Services for the City of St. George said the city felt that the disability community was underserved in the community.

“There’s an (Americans with Disabilities Act) access standard that we put into all parks, which basically means that … we comply with that law,” Perkins said, “but the ability of people to have true accessibility was not here at that time.”

Perkins said the city wanted to create a facility that is “truly accessible to everyone.” When completed, the All Abilities Park and Playground will likely be one of the premier all-abilities parks in the nation.

Citing the wheelchair-accessible train, Perkins said there are two other parks in the nation with such a feature, but both of them are commercial parks. St. George will have the only train of its type in a public park.


Read more: Train arrives at All Abilities Park

Faux-Rock features at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Faux-Rock features at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

“In fact, there are a lot of all-abilities parks of different shapes and sizes throughout the United States,” Perkins said. “Ours is probably one of the larger ones and definitely one of the more complex ones.”

A disability can mean many different things and because of this spectrum, Perkins said, the park had to be built to accommodate many different needs.

“Whether it’s a sight or a sound (disability), whether it’s a balance or mobility (issue) or mental challenges … our goal is to try and create a facility that breaks down as many barriers as possible, that makes it possible for people of all abilities … to be able to participate.”

Another aim of the park is to bring children of all abilities together, thus its name. Children who are not disabled are going to enjoy the park as well.

“Part of the real goal is socialization between people with disabilities and people who don’t (have them). As they start interacting and spending time together, there’s a real benefit there, a benefit of understanding and appreciation.”

The park’s grand opening will be for the initial phase of the project, Perkins said. Fundraising will continue and future additions will be made.

“Right now, we have sufficient money to be able to do our first phase of the project,” Perkins said, “and maybe even a little bit into the second phase.”

Like many construction projects, the All Abilities Park and Playground has seen its share of delays and cost overruns. Originally slated for opening in summer of 2015, the project completion date has been pushed out on several occasions. Now, however, with structures nearing completion and equipment either on hand or en route, the likelihood of the park opening during the spring is high.

The train depot at the St. George All Abilities Park & Playground. Feb. 5, 2016. |Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
The train depot at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016. | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

“The original goal was that we hoped to be open by March 1,” Perkins said. “We then pushed it to April 1. Now we’re talking about, ‘we’d love to have it finished in April’ – the sooner the better. We’re not throwing dates out anymore, because every time it rains, (work) stops for a couple of days … so I say spring.”

The first phase of the playground equipment has been ordered and should arrive in a week or two, Perkins said. The sensory garden, which features all-accessible outdoor musical instruments, has been received.

The train arrived several months ago, the tracks are all in place and the depot is rapidly reaching completion.

The walls of the volcano shade structure have been built and, Perkins said, within a month, the hope is to have the majority of the external landscaping completed.

“We’re finally moving forward,” he said, “hopefully fairly quickly.”

Despite having enough funds on hand to open Phase 1 of the concept, plans are still moving forward with fundraising for the next phases of the park.

"Helping Hands." Hand prints that will create a mosaic to be displayed as part of the All Abilities Park on display at the "Celebration of Abilities" variety show, St. George, Utah, Sept. 25, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
“Helping Hands.” Hand prints that will create a mosaic to be displayed as part of the All Abilities Park on display at the “Celebration of Abilities” variety show, St. George, Utah, Sept. 25, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The Helping Hands Project encourages donors of all income levels to pitch in. Donors will receive various styles of hand impressions to be displayed at the park: a $500 donor will be able to have a concrete hand impression, a $200 donor will receive an 8-by-8-inch tile hand impression, a $100 donation gets an 8-by-8-inch painted hand tile, and a $25 donor will receive a ceramic hand cutout.

“We’re looking for funding from individuals, primarily, who are willing to donate and then put their hands into cement or paint or clay,” Perkins said.

The goal is to fill the whole entryway to the facility with hand impressions. The project has seen a good response so far, Perkins said, but needs a lot more.

One issue that remains is funding for more shade structures. Phase 1 fundraising has allowed the city to purchase most of the facilities and structures for the park, but having enough shade areas remains a concern.

“We are anxious to generate a few more dollars to get the shade that’s necessary.”

The reaction from the disabled community has been extremely positive. Nearly every day, the All Abilities Park Facebook page receives messages of support and appreciation.

“It’s been extraordinary. A lot of tears have been shed,” Perkins said. “We’re not going to solve all the world’s problems. We’re not going to make it perfect for everybody, but we’re doing everything we can to make things accessible so those families are really appreciative.”

Workers laying cement during construction of the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Workers laying cement during construction of the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Faux-rock features at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground are nearing completion in time for an anticipated spring opening date. All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Faux-rock features at the St. George All Abilities Park and Playground are nearing completion in time for an anticipated spring opening date. All Abilities Park and Playground, St. George, Utah, Feb. 5, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

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Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • youcandoit February 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    I love it I’m disabled I have a rare disease in my spine it’s eroding my sacrum bone and nerves in my spine I can’t hike like I used to or do alot of things, that people take for granted,thank you ever so much I’m going to donate. How many miles does the train travel? How much are they charging to ride the train?

  • beacon February 8, 2016 at 7:08 am

    I think that having an all abilities park is a worthwhile goal and in fact all parks should be open to all abilities. Had these folks not gone so overboard with the design and had such highfalutin ideas of what it should be, they would not be begging for money now and could have more to use on retrofitting other parks to accommodate more people. Seems like St. George folks in general have become very full of themselves. Are we competing with Disneyland? Seems like the new park is more for “show” than really dealing with the issue reasonably.

  • .... February 8, 2016 at 8:34 am

    LOL ! shut up already beacon geez you’re worse than the people you’re talking about. and talking about being full of it .. you are !

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