City gets cracking on new Cahuilla Park playground

Fences went up around Cahuilla Park last week as construction crews set to work providing avid playground users with some updated digs.

City officials are installing an estimated $65,000 in new playground equipment at the Indian Hill Boulevard and Scripps Drive park. The new setup was deemed necessary in order to address safety concerns with the old equipment and to bring the community facility up to date with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Cahuilla Park playground will remain closed until September 16, according to Director of Community and Human Services Kathleen Trepa, but she maintains the new additions will be worth the wait.

“The equipment was really outdated and needed to be fixed,” Ms. Trepa noted. “This is going to be a nice addition to the park that I think residents will really be happy with.”

The last time Cahuilla Park received a new jungle gym was in 1997, more than 15 years ago. Since that time, a large portion of the playground geared for the 2-5 year olds has been removed due to safety concerns. The portion of the playground facilities that remain, that designated for the 2-5 year olds as well as the area for the 5-12 year olds, is not accessible to wheelchair-bound children or those with disabilities.

With the help of Claremont residents, city officials sought to make a change. A community meeting was held in March with several residents of the surrounding neighborhoods in attendance. With the collaboration of the PlayPower playground manufacturing company, residents helped the city come up with a new design all could agree on.

The new playground setup for the 5-12 year olds will include 2 slides, several ladders, a rock climbing structure and a track ride, or zip line, the first to appear at any Claremont park, according to Ms. Trepa. The jungle gym for the younger children will also include 2 slides and a rock climber, with the addition of an arched bridge as well as 2 steering wheels and an interactive gear panel. Both playgrounds will be updated to ADA standard and include Braille lettering for those with visual impairments.

Despite neighbors’ suggestion to change the park’s wood-chipped ground covering to rubber, the wood chips will remain as the playground designer explained there are actually fewer playground injuries with the wood than the rubber. It is also believed that the wood chips will be more durable, a goal of the overall playground redesign, Ms. Trepa noted.

The work won’t slow come September 16. Once Cahuilla Park is reopened, it’s on to the next park for the community and human resources team. Wheeler Park is next on the list for needed playground upgrades. A community meeting will be held to solicit feedback on Wheeler Park’s new equipment, according to Ms. Trepa. A date for that meeting has not been set.

—Beth Hartnett


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