Montgomery Township’s proposal for an all-inclusive playground to be built at the Township Municipal Complex has been six years in the making.
The township currently is seeking state funds, which could be the final leg of funding they need for the playground to come to fruition.
Township Committee members unanimously voted in favor of the township applying for a New Jersey Department of Enviornmental Protection (NJDEP) Green Acres Program grant matching township funds and grants received for the project during a meeting on Feb. 1.
“People have worked tirelessly to get to this point. I know where it started being part of the Recreation Committee and how it has grown,” Mayor Neena Singh said.
“This is great, especially when you tell the residents that so much money is coming from grants, I think that is important for residents to know not only are we working for the quality of life for everybody, but at the same time we are not going into the tax season saying oh this is coming up.”
The all-inclusive playground, which has been more than six years in the making, will cost $1.5 million to build in front of the municipal complex.
With the grants currently received and capital from the township, Montgomery has come up with $750,000 for the project.
The township received a $350,000 Somerset County Recreation Grant, $50,000 from Investors Bank grant, a $66,000 NJDEP local recreation improvement grant, and is using $284,000 of existing township capital for the project.
The NJDEP Green Acres grant the township will apply for gives Montgomery the ability to ask for a 50% match.
“So, if we are able to pull that full amount in from the Green Acres program it would get us to our $1.5 million number,” said John Groeger, township director for Parks and Recreation.
The location of the all-inclusive playground in front of the municipal complex, which is off of Orchard Road, is in a flat grassy area surrounded by trees between an unnamed access driveway and Community Drive on the complex’s site.
When search for a location was underway, the township wanted to find an area where Montgomery does not already have a playground.
“In our mind we wanted to find a place where we would not necessarily either taking down a playground that had been recently updated or building next to a larger playground,” Groeger explained.
“It is a very large project … 11,550 square feet give or take. There will be fencing around the entire playground obviously to make it safe.”
Officials said the proposed playground location was seen as a great spot with the county library; the municipal building; Rock Brook School; the housing development, which currently does not have a playground, across Orchard Road from the complex; and future affordable senior housing all surrounding the location.
Additionally, the location’s proximity to township businesses.
Montgomery’s proposed playground project will have two large play structures – one for ages 2-5 and a second structure for ages 5-12.
There will be 11 freestanding play pieces that includes music instruments. Additionally, three exercise stations, accessible swings, shade structures and benches.
The playground would have a zero-entry inclusive orbit (a merry go round) that some who are wheelchair bound could use, inclusive cruiser which rocks, a music station, exercise station for all ages and abilities, a serenity spot (a playground enclosure to sit and relax), and volta spinner (a spinning social space with multiple seating positions).
“A lot of the equipment is not just for those who may be wheelchair bound, but we have different pieces for people who may have sight impairments and other disabilities as well,” Groeger said.
The structure for ages 2-5 has two separate ramped entrances so that everyone will be able to navigate the playground from side to side.
“Being able to continue to play all throughout with their friends. Again, it will be completely fenced in as well,” Groeger said.
Rose Sands, with her 9-year-old daughter Amber Sands standing by her side, shared that her daughter – when she was 5 years old – said her very first word sitting at the top of a slide.
“The reason why she said the word was because it was an if, then situation. If she says a word she is allowed to slide down,” Sands said.
She explained that it became highly motivating for Amber to go back up on that slide over and over and over again.
“Would I like to tell you that a slide will solve all problems for all children of disabilities? I would love to say that, but every child is different, and every child deserves the opportunity to figure out what that motivation is,” she added.
“For those families of two- and 5-year-old [children], please give them a free accessible option, please be open minded to resources that can be ours that help children coming after Amber.”