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Group plans inclusive playground

A new group in Suffolk aims to see a new inclusive, universal playground built in North Suffolk and has planned a community meeting for later this month to discuss it.

Meg Diggs, the Inclusive Play Project organizer, saw a need in the community to have a playground that would be accessible for children with disabilities.

“This comes from a need in the community, and a lot of families that have kids with challenges can benefit from access to this,” Diggs said. “They are already fighting so many fights, and if we can make something easier, then why not?”

There are only two other accessible parks in Hampton Roads and both are located in Virginia Beach — Rudee Inlet and Mount Trashmore.

The project has begun to look at designs for the park, and they want it to have a universal design. That means the park would be accessible not only to those with physical disabilities but also to those with learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, autism, Down syndrome and children without disabilities.

It’s also going to be accessible to families with strollers and seniors.

“Ramp designs will make the play area accessible to not just kids, but grandparents who want to play with kids and moms with a stroller so they don’t have to leave their children sleeping,” Diggs said.

Diggs is also hoping that the park will help children realize that having a disability is normal.

“This park makes it so that everyone can play together in the community, and we are teaching children there is no such thing as a disability. There are just different abilities that people bring to the table, and that’s the most important that every person contributes something and that everyone is valuable,” Diggs said.

Diggs got a group of parents, therapists and community members together to get this project going, and they are hoping that the community will join them to make the project come to life.

The group hopes to place the park at Northern Shores Elementary School. The location is central to areas in Suffolk, Newport News and Chesapeake, and it will upgrade the equipment at Northern Shores.

According to Diggs, most of the equipment on the playground has been there since the school was built, and playground equipment normally lasts 15 to 20 years.

“The equipment is coming to the end of its life cycle, and we are on borrowed time,” Diggs said.

The group has already scheduled meetings with council members and the city manager to start discussing plans, and they will be having multiple community meetings so that the community has a say.

Their first community meeting will be held at 6 p.m. June 28 at HUB 757, 6801 Bridgeway Drive. The meeting will give the community a chance to learn about the project and give their input as well.

“We are going to educate the community on what we want to do and how far we’ve come in the design,” Diggs said. “We will also have signups for those to join the team and make this happen.”

While nothing is set in stone yet, Diggs and her team hope that this can truly be a community project.

“I am very excited about where this is going, and I am blown away by the support of local businesses and community members,” Diggs said.