BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – What started out as just a dream of 3 moms to add more inclusive spaces to their community in Black River Falls became a reality this Fall. First News at Nine’s Eleanor Bland has the story.

Mothers Nicole, Anneliese, and Ashley were strangers with one common goal; To spruce up a playground in their community that needed a makeover. Nicole Thompson says, “It was a wooden structure that was rotting and there was sand here. And so, it just wasn’t completely safe for every child, but especially children who might have different abilities.”

The team of mothers began fundraising in 2021 for a new All-Abilities Playground. With donations from the community and a $300-thousand matching grant from the Lunda Charitable Fund. The playground finally opened in October. Thompson says, “We have different areas that include healthy risk-taking structures for them. They have open-ended play. They have big motor movements as well. We also have really high contrasting colors that help with our friends that have different abilities.”

Anneliese Eddy says the park was much needed as there is around 2000 people in Jackson County living with disabilities, “Sometimes kids can get a little bit overstimulated with the noise, the amount of children, the amount of activity. So, we wanted to put in a sensory break location for the children. you can actually do a lot of different things while you’re sitting in more of an enclosed space to kind of help with some of the auditory sounds.”

And the playground is not just for kids. Eddy says, “I’ve seen so many grandparents be able to come and see their grandkids smiling and playing and interact with them right up at the equipment where grandparents or people who are not as mobile would be sitting off to the side.”

Project coordinator, Ashley Segelhurst, says, “Our hope was that we’re able to bring together people of all abilities and that they can play side by side and get to know each other and have exposure and build those relationships. It’s something that we really have been needing here for a long time,”

The All-Abilities Playground can be found at Lunda Park.

The park opened 2 weeks ago but there are still plans for a phase 2. By 2024 they plan to add a fence to keep everyone safely in the play area and make the bathroom more accessible.