Hudson seeks to build first universal community playground

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Hudson – A group of Hudson residents has formed a new community organization and started fundraising for the construction of the town’s first Universal Design playground, where everyone can play, including those with different abilities.

Founded by local mom Amy Griffis, Smile2Play aims to raise about $500,000 over the next two years for state-of-the-art Universal Design-compliant playground equipment, rubberized surfacing and other key items. The premise behind the project is to create a playground that incorporates the principles of Universal Design, which goes beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and creates access for as many people as possible. The organization has partnered up with SMILE Mass, the creators of SMILE Mass playground in Sudbury, who will assist with the project and help recruit benefactors and volunteers.

“SMILE Mass is proud to be a partner in this project,” noted Lotte Diomede of the organization. “Individuals with disabilities simply want to be part of their own community and have the opportunity to do similar things that millions of Americans take for granted every day; such as going to the playground.  This new Universal Design playground will allow everyone to play together, despite disability, while also fostering understanding, compassion and acceptance.”

The playground location is expected to be determined in August, when the town’s Recreation Master Plan is slated for completion. By this fall, due to safety regulations and the age of the current playgrounds, Hudson will reduce the total number of its community play spaces with playground equipment to just three: Wood Park, Riverside and Kelly Playground. None of these playgrounds meet ADA requirements, so the new Universal Design playground will be the only one in Hudson to accommodate those with special abilities.

Griffis said that many families need to leave town, in order to find accessible outdoor spaces to play. She hopes the Smile2Play playground project will provide a safe space for all Hudson children.

“Anyone traveling through town can see that Hudson is undergoing a transformative and energy-filled revitalization,” said Griffis. “As the town grows into a thriving family-friendly community it has become apparent that we need a safe place for children and adults of all abilities to come to meet, play and grow. As a mother of three small children, I find myself packing the car and driving up to an hour round trip to neighboring towns to use their playgrounds. This can be difficult for many families, especially those with different abilities. Bringing this type of playground close to home will allow families to spend more time enjoying each other and our growing community.”

Noted Diomede, “To this day, 10 years after the opening of the playground in Sudbury, I still get phone calls and emails from people who drive over an hour to come to the SMILE Mass Playground because it is the closest place where, for example, a parent in a wheelchair can follow their young child everywhere. While this warms our hearts that the SMILE Mass Playground in Sudbury is so loved, it also makes us sad that a Universal Design playground is the exception rather than the norm. We believe that Universal Design playgrounds should be in every community…”

For more information or to donate, visit www.Smile2Play.com.