“We are beyond excited,” said McBride, founder and executive director of the Special Kids Foundation. “This has every single thing that parents asked for, and it’s just all so satisfying.”
Cognizant of the need for a local playground offering more options to children with special needs, the Brentwood Parks and Recreation Department established a subcommittee last year to evaluate what those needs were and how to meet them. The result was the unanimous approval and pledge of $250,000 from the City Council (paid for by a portion of a $2.3 million grant Brentwood received from the East Bay Regional Park District under the provisions of Measure WW), a secured grant of $15,000 and a $34,000 donation from the Special Kids Foundation.
“Of all the projects I have done over all the years, this is by far the most satisfying,” said Roger Stromgren, Brentwood’s park maintenance manager. “Being able to give these kids something like this is awesome. We’ve come a long way in a year.”
The focal point of the park is a state-of-the-art pirate ship play structure complete with cannons and masts. Anchored by three slides and two wheelchair-accessible ramps as well as other ability-friendly accessories, the play structure can accommodate all levels of access and play. Also included in the park is a quiet zone that includes a crawl hole and two interpretive panels, which make water sounds such as rain, ocean waves and running rivers. The panels are interactive – when children touch a picture of water, they hear the appropriate sounds.
A fence, one of the must-haves on McBride’s and other parents’ wish lists, will surround the entire play area. “Parents were adamant about having the fence,” said McBride. “It’s so important to have something contained, and it was a huge item for us. They heard and they listened. The city has listened on every single piece of this; they’ve had a genuine desire to make it right – and it shows.”
Officials believe the playground’s proximity to Veterans Park, the Brentwood Aquatic Center and related picnic areas makes for the perfect location for not only special-needs families, but the general public.
Stromgren has already pinpointed his favorite part of the playground. “I like the stern of the pirate ship,” he laughed. “It has cannons on the side and a molded spot where it looks like a cannonball hit the ship. I have to say, it’s pretty neat.”
McBride agreed: “You can’t go there (to the pirate ship) and not be transported. It’s totally amazing.”