By Nick McWherter
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer
Bath Township was awarded a grant by the Department of Natural Resources in 2009 in the amount of $175,500 to use for the construction of a barrier-free playground at Wiswasser Park.
Bath Township applied for the DNR Land and Water Trust Fund Grand to help fund the project and were approved for $175,500, half of the project cost.
Since the grant is funded by federal dollars it has taken longer than expected to get the project started, township officials said. Construction will begin at Wiswasser Park in September.
“Our community has not received funds in quite some time, so I think we were obviously a likely candidate simply because the DNR hasn’t put a grant in Bath Township in decades,” Bath Township Superintendent Troy Feltman said. “But the other piece is I think it is a barrier-free issue, and that is obviously a hot topic.”
The project includes the equipment for the playground but also will include lighting, surfacing, benches, trash receptacles, a bicycle loop, and electricity over to the pavilion, township officials said.
“Essentially the tenants of a barrier-free playground are anybody with a physical or mental handicap would be able to participate in various activities on the playground equipment or the structure itself,” Feltman said. “You obviously have a barrier-free ramp, which allows somebody in a wheelchair, or somebody who has other physical impediments, would be basically able to go seamlessly with the approved slope.”
A barrier-free playground allows for all children to participate and interact with each other, regardless of any disability.
“It allows kids to be exposed to each other, and become more compassionate and pathic to each other and not single people out who have disabilities,” Sherry Boyd, coordinator of grants at The Arc Michigan, said. The Arc is an organization for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I think they are a good thing to have in your community, they allow all kids with a disability or without a disability to play with each other all together, all the time,” Boyd added.
Although there were a few roadblocks along the way for Bath Township everyone is excited to get the project started.
“I’m ecstatic, from the standpoint that it has been a long process,” Feltman said. “I’ve had a committee that has been working with me and it has been one of those, we get going and then have to hit a stop, because we are waiting for the DNR.”
Bath will begin construction in mid-September and will rely on a community build in order to complete construction of the playground. According to township officials, 30 people have already volunteered to assist in the playground construction.
“The way this works is you have a three-day build: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday we will actually construct the playground equipment, then put a big fence around it,” Feltman said.
“Within that week the people that do the pour-in-place come in, they pour it and that has to cure for two days,” Feltman said. “At that point in time the playground is open. Realistically by mid-to-end of September we should have it available to the public.”