The Kanawha State Forest Foundation is in the process of developing what will become the first wheelchair-accessible playground in the state parks system.
The playground will take shape later this year adjacent to the forest’s Spotted Salamander Nature Trail.
So far, the foundation has raised $58,000 of the $80,000 needed to complete the playground, located on and adjacent to the site of an existing conventional playground. Construction and installation work is expected to begin this spring.
Centerpiece of the playground will be a swing set featuring a wheelchair platform swing, which forest visitors can mount and secure their wheelchairs to by themselves, and then use a pull chain to attain the desired swing arc.
The swing set also includes a child adaptive swing that has ample back support and a secure front panel to provide safe swinging for visitors needing the amenities. A patented JennSwing that provides full-body support for its riders will also be a part of the swing array.
Other playground items include a Curva spinner — a self-propelled spinning platform equipped with vertical metal bars gripped by its riders, who work together to build centrifugal force and increase speed. It can also be operated by a single rider. A smaller Lotus spinner, which requires a non-riding assistant to create the desired degree of spin using muscle power, is also planned.
The existing playground was widened and antiquated play structures will be replaced with ADA-compliant equipment suitable for use by both disabled and able-bodied users.
A solid rubber surface will be installed under the ADA-compliant swings and spinners, and virgin chipped rubber mulch will underlie the other new play gear to provide a nontoxic, wood- and metal-free surface.
The adjacent Spotted Salamander Trail, recently renovated by Foundation members and other volunteers, is a paved, quarter-mile circuit along a section of Davis Creek and a small wetland area. Signs along the way point out features of natural life encountered along the trail, using both printed and visual materials and braille.
The playground project will include adding a Braille game board near the trail, providing a fun way for both nonsighted and sighted visitors to learn the braille alphabet.
Money for developing the new playground includes a $50,000 grant to expand recreational opportunities for the handicapped from the Marmet Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit representing the former tuberculosis treatment facility that merged with Charleston General Hospital in 1967. A $5,000 grant was awarded by West Virginia University’s “Take Back Our Health” physical activity initiative, and a $1,700 bequest was made in memory of William Palmer, frequently seen walking in KSF with his wife, Leola, prior to his death last August.
The Foundation has also raised $1,300 for the playground through a campaign on its Facebook page.
The Foundation welcomes donations from individuals, corporate and club donors. Donations in excess of $1,000 will be acknowledged on a permanent recognition sign at the playground entrance. Donations may be made online via the Foundation’s Facebook site, or by mailing them to the foundation at 7500 Kanawha State Forest Drive, Charleston, WV 25314.