Source: Gary Brock videoAmy Rees talks about the Access Cowling Project while volunteers work behind her to erect the playground equipment.
It was a warm and pleasant Friday morning as more than a dozen volunteers worked to erect new all-access playground equipment at London’s Cowling Park.
For Riley McKenna of Stanley Electric, holding up a long bar as project manager Tony Shadwick of Penchura LLC holds a large level to make sure it lines up; for Alycia Mokedanz with Madison Health who puts finishing touches of paint on the children’s train nearby; and for Amy Rees with the City of London helping with the many volunteers at the park — all of the work they were doing was a labor of love.
“This is definitely a community project,” said Rees, executive assistant for the mayor and public service for city of London, and secretary for London Community Organization, which has taken on the fundraising for Access Cowling project. A number of organizations have been raising and providing donations to make this all-access park a reality.
Rees said the project, when completed, will cost about $400,000. “We have about $120-130,000 raised so far. This is Phase Two of the project being done today,” she said, while the volunteers worked on a large piece of equipment.
While the nearly dozen workers assembled the large playground structure, volunteer Alycia Mokedanz was nearby, carefully painting and putting the finishing touches on the wooden train at one side of the park. The “Paul Meadows London Express,” the play structure for kids, had needed a fresh coat of paint. So Mokedanz and other volunteers from Madison Health decided to put their painting skills to work and repaint the long train.
Along with Mokedanz, a physical therapist, other Madison Health painting volunteers were Tyler Hicks, Julie Akers, Heidi Graber, Amy Brehm, and Rees.
“This is a great project for this community,” Mokedanz said as she applied the blue paint to the front of the train. A young boy patiently stood by watching, and occasionally checked the status of the paint to see if it was dry yet.
Rees said there are nine volunteers from Stanley Electric that came out to work, plus someone from the London Fire Department, and Tony Shadwick, of Penchura LLC, the recreation products company that designed the park and providing the playground equipment.
“Tony’s been great,” she said. “He said that if we get the volunteers here, he will direct them.”
And direct them he did, as well as lend a lot of personal labor to the job Friday.
As the large play structure was going up, Shadwick had Stanley Electric worker Riley McKenna hold as straight as possible a long steel support as he placed a level atop it to make sure it was straight. After a little adjusting, it was ready to be tightened in place.
Rees said a local trucking company traveled across the country to pick up the playground equipment. Building Systems Transportation Company traveled to Minnesota to pick it all up, more than 5,000 pounds of it. “We just paid for the fuel, and this saved us $2,000,” she said.
Phase One started last fall. When will the next phase begin? “As soon as we have the money. We are about halfway there to Phase Three I think,” Rees said. “I would love for Phase Three to be underway in the fall. That would be ideal.”
What does the “all-access” equipment mean for kids in the community? “It will be accessible to everybody. Whether it is a child in a wheelchair, a mom in a stroller, anybody can use it. There will be a ramp system throughout the path.
“We really wanted everybody to be included, whether there is a disability or not. We wanted kids with disabilities to be able to play alongside their peers whether they can run or climb or anything. Kids want to play together, and kids don’t care about other kids abilities or disabilities,” Rees pointed out.
All of the equipment installed Friday, which will sit on artificial turf, should be ready for kids to use after 72 hours.
Friday’s work consisted of the first piece of playground structure and the rhapsody music garden, which is the outdoor music area.
The London Community Organization (LCO) partnered with Madison County Future, Inc. and the City of London to build Access Cowling, the area’s first inclusive playground. The structure is designed with attractions and equipment that is accessible to all children, including those with physical and cognitive differences.
The first phase of the project was completed with the installation of two molded plastic swings, a paved pathway spanning the park and five activity panels and an information kiosk lining the new walkway.
Access Cowling is accepting donations for the project. Checks may be made payable to Madison County Future, Inc., c/o Access Cowling, 730 Keny Blvd., London, OH 43140 or donations can be made online at https://www.gofundme.com/2rjfyes, or dropped off at the mayor’s offices.
Reach General Manager/Editor Gary Brock at 937-556-5759.