Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris recently secured $2.8 million in funding for the City of Irvine to renovate the playground at Sweet Shade Neighborhood Park, updating the recreational space to a Universal Playground that will meet the need of all residents regardless of ability. Sweet Shade is home to Sweet Shade Ability Center, where the City's Disability Services program provides activities for individuals with sensory, physical, or cognitive disabilities, and their family members.
"I'm so proud to have secured $2.8 million in the California state budget to renovate Sweet Shade Park in the Westpark neighborhood of Irvine, to be inclusive of all abilities," said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine). "The new STEM and outer space theme will provide exciting interactive sensory learning for special needs individuals, and I can't wait to see kids come together to enjoy this phenomenal resource in our community."
The Universal Playground will feature multigenerational play components to support playground usage by those with disabilities, as well as their parents and caregivers; an adaptive swing; a sensory garden; and an adjacent restroom and adult changing area. The playground will be wheelchair accessible, include interactive equipment for a variety of ages, and usable by all people to the greatest extent possible.
"The Universal Playground will be the first of its kind in this City that has differently-abled residents at the center of its design. Creating a space where children and adults can play regardless of ability is important," said Jennifer Kim, Chair of the Irvine Residents with Disabilities Advisory Board. "The swings and playground structure will allow wheelchair users to experience the thrill of playing alongside peers, and the restrooms will benefit families and those who need additional caregiving. The Universal Playground is a symbol of the City's commitment to inclusivity and supporting residents of all abilities."
Sweet Shade is a 7.9-acre public neighborhood park. The ability center was renovated in 2019 to provide a larger, more accessible, and inviting hub for the delivery of Disability Services activities to Irvine residents. The creation of the City's first universal playground will complement the facility and expand inclusive recreational opportunities to all Irvine residents.
"Inclusivity continues to be a top priority for the City of Irvine, and I am proud to offer a fun, safe recreational space for those in our community with sensory, physical, or cognitive disabilities. This will be the City's first universal playground, and a testament to our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion for children and families who call Irvine home," said Mayor Farrah N. Khan. "I am grateful for Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris' support and partnership with the City in providing this resource for our residents."
As plans are finalized on the playground's construction, updates will be posted online at cityofirvine.org/sweetshadeplayground. For more information on City of Irvine Disability Services, visit cityofirvine.org/ds, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 949-724-6637.