Cutting edge inclusive ‘destination’ playground coming to Cook Family Park

Designers predict Cook Family Park’s innovative new inclusive playground will draw visitors from around the area to enjoy its integrated approach to making a play space for all kids.
Designers predict Cook Family Park’s innovative new inclusive playground will draw visitors from around the area to enjoy its integrated approach to making a play space for all kids. Courtesy/Ross recreation equipment
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From the colorful turf to the heights of the play structure, fun is about to become a lot more accessible in Tigard.

Construction will soon be underway at the newly renamed Cook Family Park to remove existing equipment and make way for a cutting-edge new playground designed to bring everyone into the action.

“So much thought and consideration were put in by the city and the community and designers to try and check every single box,” says Ross Recreation’s Len Fransen.

The city chose Ross’s design from about a half-dozen companies that competed in a 2022 Cook Park Inclusive Design Competition to replace the Tigard’s oldest play structure with an update that brings kids who are typically left out on the periphery or left out altogether into the center.

“We decided to have a little more fun with this and turned it into a design competition,” said Rick Gruen, Tigard’s parks and recreation green infrastructure manager. “We had an open house and got a lot of great feedback for what’s going to be our first truly inclusive playground in the community.”

The goal – and the benchmark the city was striving to reach – is a play place that integrates accessible equipment throughout while remaining challenging for the general population.

Also, “more swings, more swings, more swings,” Gruen said.

For kids unable to transfer from a wheelchair to playground equipment, “inclusive” often means being relegated to special equipment, segregated from the other kids, and only seeing the climbing platforms from below.

“This one is really awesome,” Fransen said of the design. “It’s fun and whimsical and enjoyable for everyone. This park and this community are going to be the best of its kind in the state. It will be a destination.”

Kids in wheelchairs will be able to roll across a bridge from a berm being built into one side of the park to reach high points on the play structure where they can engage with kids who climb up.

Getting off the ground was a common ask from parents whose kids rarely get a change of perspective. There’s only one spot, a 12-foot tower, that kids would need to transfer out of a chair to reach, according to Fransen. 

Three integrated ride-on features, with room for wheelchairs and able-body riders, will sit prominently in the center of the playground. Everything about the design is aimed at open, unscripted play to avoid limiting some kids to looping repetitive paths.

“I deliberately placed these rides and features in the center of the playground,” Fransen said. “I want kids to feel like ‘I’m just here with everyone else; I’m not off in a corner.”

By everyone, he means everyone. Designers also integrated feedback from parents of kids with vision and hearing impairments, cochlear implants, and sensory sensitivity.

Designers took public feedback from the community engagement sessions and used input from parents of kids with visual impairments to design an AstroTurf surface of contrasting colors. Dark blue paths running through bright green will help the kids with impaired vision wind their way along.

Under the city’s original timeline, the playground was slated to open this month, but supply chain delays held up playground equipment delivery, causing the city to miss a demolition and site preparation work window with the contractor initially hired for that work.

The delays nearly doubled the price tag on that project segment, which was re-contracted to Ross.

“When we were finally ready to look at the site work, we were now dealing with rising costs from the original bid estimate for the site prep,” Gruen said. 

On the new timeline, Cook Family Park’s inclusive playground should be open for play this fall.

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