Highly anticipated All Abilities Park opens to community

ST. GEORGE – The long awaited Thunder Junction All Abilities Park is set to debut to the public Saturday. A brief ceremony will begin at noon at the front gate; after which the park will officially open.

Saturday’s opening is being hailed as an event years in the making and one that has brought the community together in many ways, said Kent Perkins, leisure services director for the City of St. George.

The Thunder Junction All Abilities Park carries the dinosaur theme throughout the park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 5, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
The Thunder Junction All Abilities Park carries the dinosaur theme throughout the park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 5, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“It’s probably one of the most extraordinary things that we’ve done as a community,” Perkins said.

The park, located adjacent to Tonaquint Nature Center at 1851 S. Dixie Drive in St. George, was designed and built to accommodate children with disabilities and those without and provide a space where everyone can play side-by-side.

Tiles with the handprints of children and youth are displayed throughout Thunder Junction’s grounds. They are called the “hands that built the park” and are an example of how the community came together to bring the park to fruition, Perkins said.

Donations from the Elk’s Foundation and the St. George Exchange Club helped to pay for the hands, Perkins said with gratitude.

The handprints are because somebody was generous enough to step up,” Perkins said adding that they are one of his favorite features.

Though they are called the ‘hands that built the park,” Perkins said in reality, they are the hands the park was built for.

“But most importantly, again, we are doing this for people,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike, said echoing Perkins, “for the people of St. George, for people of all ages and all abilities, that’s the point.”

Children and youth's handprints called "the hands that built the park" adorn the walls of the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 5, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Children and youth’s handprints called “the hands that built the park” adorn the walls of the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 5, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The park carries a dinosaur theme throughout and has several special features ideal for children with all abilities including a sensory garden, wheelchair accessible playground features, splashpad and a 1/4-scale train that circles the park on 2,700 feet of track.

The All Abilities Park has been a labor of love for many since it was first conceptualized and anticipation is high for Saturday’s opening, said St. George City Manager, Gary Esplin.

“I’ve never been involved in a project over the 40 years I’ve been here as city manager where more people have come together,” an emotional Esplin said.

The city broke ground on the park in January of 2015 and, according a previous St. George News report had initially slated to open in summer of that same year. But as city planners and designers listened to various groups that serve the special needs community, the park’s design evolved and many features were added.

Esplin said that his desire to make the park a place of love and acceptance for all was fueled in part by his grandson who would have been a child with special needs but passed away at 13 months old.

“He touched my heart to make this even more spectacular,” Esplin said.

The new park will likely set a precedent for the state and even the nation on how to build a park that serves and includes people of different abilities.

“In my opinion, there won’t be another facility like this in the country,” Esplin said.

Perkins hopes the park is seen as a legacy for St. George and looks forward to seeing it become a place that everyone can enjoy.

When asked if he would come and play on it, Perkins said he undoubtedly would.

Saturday’s opening is expected to draw a big crowd, Perkins said, and the city wants to accommodate everyone who has a desire to be there. Families who are able are encouraged to use the city bike paths to reach the park and take advantage of a bike valet with bike racks which will be set up for the event.

All of the park’s features will be operating, Perkins said. The volcano will be “erupting,” dinosaurs will be “roaring” and the train will be running.

Train rides will be sold for $1.

Live music and special guests will round out the fun.

Flyer for the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park opening, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Flyer courtesy of the City of St. George, St. George News
Flyer for the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park opening, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Flyer courtesy of the City of St. George, St. George News

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Event details

  • What: Thunder Junction All Abilities Park opening.
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 8, noon.
  • Where: Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, 1851 S. Dixie Drive, St. George.
  • Cost: Free; train rides $1
  • Additional Information: Guests are encouraged to ride their bikes to the park and take advantage of a bike valet that will be provided.
  • Thunder Junction All Abilities Park: Website

Email: hreina@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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

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27 Comments

  • Bob October 5, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    yes it’s cute, but my god i can’t believe we let them spend our taxes on toy ride-on trains. I guess there’ll be a full time employee to man the ridiculous thing? These are people’s pet projects funded by our taxes gone way too far.

    • darkgoddess October 6, 2016 at 5:05 am

      This park was built mostly with private donations. Get your facts straight. I live across the road from this park and have been waiting to go check it out. I’m glad there are places for children to go and play outside here, instead of staying indoors in front of video games.

      • .... October 6, 2016 at 9:04 am

        Don’t mind Bob he never reads the articles. he just looks at pictures. and he goes into his delusional state of ignorance

      • Bob October 6, 2016 at 10:17 am

        So break it down, how much was donated and how much was public funds? Was100% of the toy train, the tracks, and the build of it etc covered by private donation?–will all the upkeep and maint. of it be covered by pvt dontation? If someone is injured on it and there is a lawsuit against the city will that be covered by pvt donation? …A park is one thing(we actually have plenty) but the toy trains should be left to the pvt sector in theme parks etc…

      • Brian October 6, 2016 at 10:30 am

        You may want to follow your own advice on getting your “facts straight”. According to this story (http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2015/08/17/mgk-train-arrives-at-all-abilities-park/#.V_Z6QdwkrKg) the best they hoped for was that $1 million out of the estimated $4 million – $5 million (which is politicianese for “$6 million”) cost would be donations. Hardly the definition of “mostly”. And that doesn’t cover the cost of maintenance, staffing, and liability.

        I’m all for a pretty city and nice parks, but this is way outside the proper role of government, especially when they’re insultingly trying to raise taxes to cover the most basic of needs (transportation). To use an extreme analogy: you don’t buy a new swing set when your kids are starving.

        The park turned out wonderfully and I love the way they brought the community together to help build it. Credit where credit is due. But that doesn’t count for much when the project itself is fundamentally way outside the lines. Take away the train and anything else that requires staffing or high maintenance costs and I’m all for it.

    • .... October 6, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Hey dumbob you never learn do you ! It’s obvious you’re not making your mental hygiene appointments

  • .... October 5, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    This is absolutely fantastic news. it was a well planned project and glad to see it done. It turned out great. kudos to all those involved ! job well done. Bless you all

  • .... October 5, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Well now dumbob and RealLowlife now have a place to play. LOL. !!!

  • youcandoit October 6, 2016 at 12:38 am

    Yes I can’t wait I’m going wooo whooooo chuga chug a choooo choooo

    • Real Life October 6, 2016 at 8:15 am

      Different name, same babbling from the same idiot. Come on Dexter, dots, or whatever you want to call yourself, get off the dope.

      • .... October 6, 2016 at 8:57 am

        God Bless you my beloved brethren !

      • .... October 6, 2016 at 9:57 am

        This is a fantastic gift to the children of the community. a safe place for them to enjoy themselves. I’m glad for the parents that they have a nice place to take their children to….

      • Bob October 6, 2016 at 10:19 am

        yep, and the troll has protected status. a bunch of my replies to it got chopped, so i guess we have to let it do its thing without question

      • ladybugavenger October 6, 2016 at 10:31 am

        Evil twins mommy (remember that one? LOL)

        • .... October 8, 2016 at 1:21 pm

          and ?

          • ladybugavenger October 9, 2016 at 4:23 pm

            You’re so cute Dot. I’ll see you at the next trailer park fire. I’ll bring the coke and cheetos!

      • ladybugavenger October 6, 2016 at 11:05 am

        And Free Parking….

        • .... October 7, 2016 at 6:32 am

          So what’s your point ?

        • Real Life October 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm

          Yep. He is desperate.

          • .... October 8, 2016 at 7:58 pm

            slow day for you ?

    • .... October 6, 2016 at 9:58 am

      I already got RealLowlife and dumbob tickets to ride the train

  • Not_So_Much October 6, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Very nice and it’s wonderful so many donated to help make it happen. However, public funds and resources were involved and once again we are asked to increase our taxes. The current request is for roads and we know public safety will follow next time. Can we halt any additional nice projects which involve any resources from taxpayers? Nice projects should be funded by private funds only, because your idea and my idea of a nice project may not be the same.

  • Bob October 6, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    anyone know: is the train gas, diesel, elec, or what?

  • ladyruger October 6, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Looks great till the Gang Bangers come and tear it up. Or of course, some money hungry parent sues the City when their little darling falls and hurts themselves! How much is this costing in Insurance coverage for the City????

    • .... October 7, 2016 at 8:35 am

      Ladyruger..oh you know it’s just a matter of time before we see in the newspaper that the park was trashed and tagged.

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