Owen’s Place opens to the public

Owen’s Place, a unique playground designed not only to be handicapped accessible but to provide children of all abilities the opportunity to play together in the same space celebrated the grand opening of phase 1 of the project on May 18.

The playground, located in Victory Park in Beavercreek, is the inspiration of Trish Gustafson. When she realized how limited the opportunities were for her son Owen who uses a wheelchair she took matters into her own hands.

“This is the proudest moment of my life aside from the birth of my children. Now I just want to work even harder to see the rest of Owen’s Place completed because this population is so deserving of a recreation area without boundaries and one that truly works for them,” said Gustafson.

Phase 1 includes a shadow play area with colorful panels with solid color sides that all have different textures. This provides an activity for visually impaired children to use their sense of touch. There are also two bench swings set at wheelchair height so individuals can access them easily.

According to Gussie Jones, of the Greene County Developmental Disabilities Services who has been with the project since its beginning, this particular phase was selected as the beginning piece because it was the most reasonable, did not require any demolition of existing parking lots or terrain and because it is so eye-catching.

Jones said that the next section will be a tree house.

“It is the next most reasonable piece to erect, requires no demolition and offers a shady place as opposed to the sunny shadow play area. Construction will begin as soon as the money has been raised (about $300,000). That is one of our ground rules,” Jones said

Some of the other plans for the future include a sensory garden; pretend play areas where children can “invent” games; transfer systems and ramps to provide access to elevated play structures; slides of various lengths made of metal instead of plastic to reduce the risk of static shock which leaves some hearing devices temporarily ineffective and two accessible baseball diamonds.

“I am overwhelmed the support the project has amassed. So many organizations have stepped up on many different levels and awareness of the project is growing,” said Jones.

For more information, go to http://www.owensplace.org/index.html or contact Gustafson at 422-7924 or Jones at 562-6504.

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