ATASCADERO — The City of Atascadero and the Parents for Joy nonprofit organization held a grand opening on April 5 for the new ‘Joy Playground’ behind the Colony Park next to the Community Center, at 5599 Traffic Way.
Featuring a barbecue accompanied by classic Americana with the Swing for Joy Sax Quartet, and food provided by the Atascadero Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, fundraising for the project is still ongoing.
But the customized “treehouse” structure, accessible to those in wheelchairs as well as any other mobility issue, has come a long way since what former Mayor Tom O’Malley remembers as bake sale fundraisers. Along the way his granddaughter Joy, also no doubt got used to the idea of sharing her name with the playground bringing contentment and fun to children who wouldn’t normally get to enjoy park facilities.
Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley, who saw the early stages of the park through the City’s recreational facilities process, recalled how the concept grew from a $25,000 idea to $750,000 project, and learning with the group just what it takes to build a modern park.
The impressive central structure includes look-outs and varied types of slides as well as interactive panels, all tailored to be accessible to some kind of mobility of sensory impairment, but the tactile feedback, harnesses on swings, or semi-enclosed carousel can benefit any visitor.
Atascadero Planning Commissioner Mark Dariz, who navigates the built environment with the aid of a wheelchair, demonstrated the benefits of the tree house design ascending the platform ramp.
While now open to the public, work isn’t quite finished. A permanent, and more attractive, fence is slated to replace the construction barrier. Fundraising for the project is not complete either noted spokesman Geoff Auslen, as an upcoming City Wide Yard Sale April 13 is slated to help gather $40,000 in remaining commitments, and a charity golf tournament at Clark Mountain in September should help them establish a maintenance fund.
Placards bearing names of major donors will adorn the permanent fencing.
While the youth present for the ribbon cutting showed remarkable restraint in not rushing the gate while multiple adults gave speeches, the permanent fence will help visiting parents and guardians whose charges have “elopement issues.”
Visit www.parentsforjoy.org for fundraising and design details.