Inclusive playground closer to finish

Groundbreaking at the Joy Playground in May 2018, file photo.

ATASCADERO — While organizers had hoped to have an all-inclusive playground designed for children with special needs ready to open in Atascadero’s Colony Park by this February, several delays have pushed back that final opening day.
But, said Geoff Auslen, the Parent’s For Joy group’s de facto spokesman at recent City Council meetings, they will be ready for a “sneak peek” for an Atascadero Chamber of Commerce mixer set for Feb. 21.
Auslen announced the event at the Chamber’s annual awards and installation dinner Jan. 12, where he and his wife Kate were honored for their local business Glenn’s Repair, and he gave her the credit for getting him involved with the community project.
He later explained that the Chamber would have held a mixer at the business but it seemed like a better idea to direct efforts into an impromptu fundraiser for the playground.
Parents for Joy has been steadily chipping away at an original $140,000 in needed fundraising with individual and company contributions along with event proceeds from a Tuesdays in the Park barbecue last June and the Atascadero State Hospital charity golf tournament in September.
While the project may seem to be taking a long time, after five years of hope and planning, coming close to an opening date within a year of the May 2018 groundbreaking isn’t unreasonable.
Since there are so few manufacturers of the specialized equipment needed, a delay in production at the contracted company’s factory was unwelcome but unavoidable. Earlier issues with underground infrastructure at the site, which was donated by the City for the cause and will be returned to their control after construction, also caused planning revisions in 2018.
Planned features which have not changed are: poured-in-place rubber to help prevent injuries; a full fence around the perimeter to help contain children with “eloping” issues; built-in toys and play structures and full wheelchair accessibility.
Kate Auslen noted that, while the couple does not have children of their own, they were particularly fond of the project because of the unique options it provides children and families with all ability levels and the resource it will provide for the local community.
As a pitch to the Chamber of Commerce members expected to attend the mixer, she added, the playground will also be a regional draw for a new kind of tourism. Placards recognizing contributions starting at the $1,000 level will also be available with plans to attach them to the playground’s fence upon completion.


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