In the spring of 2002, Richard Musko, president of the Rotary Club of Butler, contacted the Butler County Parks and Recreation Department with an idea: he wanted the county to develop a fully accessible playground as part of its commitment to a community service project.
The Butler County commissioners quickly agreed to support the project, and the difficult work of planning began. A committee of professionals including the United Cerebral Palsy Association, Butler County Children Center, United Way, and the Parks and Recreation Department worked closely with the Rotary on every aspect of playground design. After two months of planning, equipment was ordered and construction began.
Four months later, the newest addition to Alameda Park was ready to open its doors. The Rotary, along with the County Board of Commissioners, unveiled Phase I of the Special Kids Zone Playground to the public on October 31, 2002.
Developing and building such a specialized playground is not cheap–the final cost of Phase I and Phase II was approximately $500,000. So the Parks and Recreation Department applied to the Community Conservation Partnership Program for support for Phase II of the project, and was awarded a $50,000 Keystone Fund grant. The grant money, combined with the financial resources and in-kind donations of local partners, was crucial to the completion of Phase II, which involved the purchase of additional equipment and installation of additional safety features.
Now, both phases are complete, and the park is open for play. Many of the organizations that were instrumental in the creation of the playground utilize and visit the park on a daily basis. They bring their children to the Zone and give them the chance to play in an area that is suited to their unique needs.
“This project has been fantastic for the county,” said Gary Pinkerton, director of Butler County Parks and Recreation. “This facility provides for a group of families that have been under-served for years. Individual people and groups come from throughout the county and the region because of the accessible play area.”