Last month in an article in The Orange County Register, one of LCI’s park projects, Angels Playground at TeWinkle Park in Costa Mesa, was listed as one of Orange County’s Ten Best Playgrounds. While this project is nearly ten years old, it remains one of LCI’s sentimental favorites.
This park came about from a family’s unconditional love for their daughter, and resulted in Orange County’s first universally accessible playground.
Doug and Jennifer Hansen’s baby daughter had an uphill battle before she even left the womb. The Hansens were anticipating the birth of their first child when an ultrasound revealed many birth defects. The doctors said the numerous birth defects would result in only a few days survival and it was recommended that the pregnancy be terminated. The Hansens thought differently and agreed to name their baby daughter Angel, “and leave the future up to God.” Angel was born with multiple muscular-skeletal deformities and her brain was one-quarter the normal size.
Despite the many birth defects and the doctor’s initial prediction of a few days’ survival has proven to be wrong. Angel turned seven the day Angels Playground opened in 2008.
Angel began physical therapy as an infant and during one of those sessions, Mr. Hansen and the physical therapist began discussing accessible playgrounds, but none was close to his Orange County home. He visited an accessible playground in Griffith Park in Los Angeles and immediately decided that Orange County needed one. After exhaustive research, Mr. Hanson found that building a universally accessible playground is a costly undertaking. As a result, the Hansens formed a charity – Angels Charity – to help improve the lives of children with special needs. After conducting a variety of fundraisers, Angels Playground went from a dream to reality. “Doug is amazing in his dedication,” said Lynn Capouya, president of LCI. The city of Costa Mesa put up the land and some of the funding, and as a joint project, Lampert Architects, Inc. remodeled the bathroom facilities next to the playground.” This project was also part of an Architecture Studio Design class at Orange Coast College. Student concepts were evaluated for appropriateness and applicability to the site. Selected students were then employed by the architect (Lampert Architects, Inc.) to work on the restroom facility and other structures. Much of the resources for both design and construction were donations to Angels Charity.
This fully accessible playground is the redesign of a 1960’s site at TeWinkle Park. Responsible for the site layout, walkway development, and landscape components, LCI staff worked with Angels Charity and City of Costa Mesa staff to integrate the new walkways with new restroom facilities, three gazebos, and a fully accessible playground. Motor skill challenges set this park apart from others with pedestals, balance beams, platforms, standing pedal pushers and tunnels to navigate. Kids of all ages are especially drawn to the moving glider with enough room to fit multiple riders and a wheelchair. Children can pretend it is a car, boat, sled or whatever their imagination divines. Colorfully striking shade canopies cover portions of the playground, which is surfaced with recycled rubber with a small sand play area near the back of the playground.
The city of Costa Mesa sponsored the opening day ceremonies and ribbon cutting. The event was attended by state and local dignitaries. Children, both ‘challenged’ and ‘able-bodied’ were able to experience the playground and participate together in a safe community park environment.
For more on Angels Playground and other Orange County Parks, go to http://www.ocregister.com/articles/park-722210-playground-play.html or www.funorangecountyparks.com