For the past year, the Edmonds Rotary Club has been raising funds for an all-inclusive playground at the soon-to-be renovated Civic Park. And now Rotarians also hope to get some help from the Washington State Legislature.
Mika’s Playground would be the city’s first truly inclusive playground, allowing children of all abilities to be able to play together. Edmonds Rotary’s David Kaufer, who has been overseeing the playground’s fundraising efforts, said the club has received support from the 21st District legislative delegation — Reps. Lillian Ortiz-Self and Strom Peterson and Sen. Marko Liias — to support a $250,000 appropriation in the state’s capital budget.
The push for state funding was initiated a year ago by Alison Alfonzo Pence, who serves as the Edmonds Rotary Club’s large grant chair. Pence said she recently retired from her job as executive director for a Seattle food bank, where she wrote many grants, and prior to that had worked in Olympia, so was familar with the legislative process.
She made her first funding request to the Legislature in 2020, just prior to the COVID pandemic, “but everything came to a standstill,” she said. As lawmakers began gearing up last fall for the 2021 legislative session, she renewed her efforts, putting in a request for $250,000.
After lawmakers in 21st District, which includes Edmonds, indicated they were on board, Pence then went to work asking local elected officials, including Mayor Mike Nelson and city councilmembers — to send in letters of support. The response, Pence said, “has been really remarkable,” she said.
Now the Rotary Club is asking community members to also send letters and emails to state legislators to support the funding request.
Letters of support should be sent to:
The Honorable Marko Liias
309 Legislative Building
PO Box 40421
Olympia, WA 98504-0403
The Honorable Lillian Ortiz-Self
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
The Honorable Strom Peterson
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
According to Kaufer, Mika’s Playground will be dedicated to Mika Zimbalist, a boy who died just short of this 11th birthday. Born with cerebral palsy, Mika enjoyed going to the park, but found as he got older, his wheelchair and walker did not work there — wood chips would get stuck in the wheels or block movement altogether. Also, standard climbing park equipment didn’t allow him to play on them and weren’t equipped to be safe for him. (Learn more in our earlier story here.)
While all playgrounds in Edmonds are ADA compliant, many of them use wood chips as a fall surface because they are a cheap alternative to rubberized coating. Although the rubberized surface is expensive, it is a key part of what makes playgrounds inclusive, so that children and other community members can access the playground structures if they are in a wheelchair or walker.
Edmonds is already home to one accessible playground, Seaview Park, that opened in July 2019. While the playground does feature a rubber fall surface and interactive spaces that can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, Seaview Park is located on a hill, which impacts its ability to be fully inclusive.
Rotarians envision Mika’s Playground as a regional draw for those who want an inclusive play space for their children. “A park of this magnitude can become a destination playground for families around the Puget Sound region,” Kaufer said.
The total estimated cost of the playground is $500,000, and the City of Edmonds has agreed to fund half of it, or $250,000. The funding will cover the cost of a poured-in-place rubberized surface instead of typical wood chips, plus the purchase of custom wheelchair equipment that will help all playground users to remain in their devices while still allowing for play.
The City of Edmonds estimates that groundbreaking for the Civic Park renovation will occur in late spring 2021.