'The days of woods chips are over': All-inclusive playground planned in Mundelein

The Mundelein Park & Recreation District is pursuing funding for an all-inclusive playground with an emphasis on accessibility for people with disabilities but designed to promote play among all abilities.

About $835,000 - 70% of the estimated cost - has been committed to the project by the park district, village, grants and corporate donations.

But construction won't begin until the playground is fully funded, and the Mundelein Parks Foundation is looking to raise $365,000 more to get the project started.

"We were very clear - this can't be built until all funds were reached," said Ron Salski, executive director and president of the parks foundation.

"We want to get over the hump," he added. "We need to purchase the equipment if we want to install it in 2024."

The all-inclusive playground would replace existing facilities at Kracklauer Park, the first park developed in the district's system. Located east of Route 45 between Division and Crystal streets, Kracklauer is two blocks from the Special Recreation Association of Central Lake County.

It's not a typical playground in that it will be designed to allow people in wheelchairs or other mobility devices to access various features. But it also will promote play among children of different ages and abilities and break down physical and social barriers, according to the district.

"It is an intergenerational initiative that impacts many people in the community, such as people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, families and more," according to district information on the project.

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Salski said the playground at Kracklauer is more than 20 years old and scheduled to be replaced. Making it all-inclusive was the agreed direction after a local family asked if it was being considered and because of the park's central location.

Mundelein is among several Lake County communities that have or are pursuing similar projects.

"It is catching on," Salski said.

The Vernon Hills Park District, for example, was one of the early entries replacing an outdated castle-themed playground with an all-inclusive Kids' Castle playground at Deerpath Park in 2016.

In Antioch, an all-inclusive playground will be part of a centerpiece community park and gathering place being planned downtown.

Such facilities are built on a concrete base covered with a rubberized surface to allow mobility, said Mary Quilty, Antioch's director of parks and recreation.

"The days of wood chips are over," she said.

"We're in the middle of the parks master plan. Going forward, most of them will be completely inclusive. It's the new trend," Quilty added.

The Round Lake Area Park District also is planning Hero Park, a universally inclusive playground that will be one of the largest of its kind in Lake County.

The district is paying for the bulk of the project but also is fundraising. It will host a tournament June 9 at its Renwood Golf Course benefiting the park.

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Conceptual drawing of an all-inclusive playground planned for Kracklauer Park east of Route 45 in Mundelein. Courtesy of Mundelein Park & Recreation District
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