L-R: CP&R Director of Operations Kyle Clark, City Council President Garlan Gudger, Councilman Andy Page, CP&R Board representative Zac Wood, Mayor Woody Jacobs and CP&R Executive Director Nathan Anderson enjoy a moment at Ingle Park on Thursday. (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)
CULLMAN – After many years of service to the families of Cullman, Ingle Park near the Field of Miracles is undergoing a facelift. The facility will see dramatic changes, with the development of previously unused spaces and play features that will truly offer something for everyone.
Cullman Parks, Recreation, and Sports Tourism (CP&R) Executive Director Nathan Anderson shared, “This is one of our older parks. We started about four years ago planning this design. We wanted to do something unique and unlike anything we’ve had in Cullman, when it comes to playgrounds. We had a huge need in the area of accessible play, but we wanted to do an accessible playground differently than what is typical, definitely different than what we’ve had.”
Anderson continued, “Looking at what happened with Field of Miracles, placing the Miracle Field amongst the other tournament regulation fields, having that inclusion has just been a beautiful thing. So that got us thinking: let’s do this with a playground: let’s include accessible play features in ordinary play features that you would see at any playground.
“So when you approach this playground–and we’re calling it the Connected Playground because we’re connecting kids of all abilities through play–you’re going to see play features that fit the person, whoever’s looking at it. A kid who has no physical restrictions is going to be challenged and love this playground, and you will have a child that rolls up in a wheelchair and will have items on the same play features that they can play on. And that was by design; we wanted it to be something that siblings of different physical abilities could play together on the same playground at the same time, both being challenged and enjoying it the same.”
Mayor Woody Jacobs told The Tribune, “We think this is going to be a new, innovative park like none other in the state of Alabama . . . We’re really excited for this new park. We’ve been working on it for a couple of years, and people of the community donated some money and different things. And we’re just excited to see the kids come to play on this new area.”
Play features were designed and manufactured by Texas-based KOMPAN, a company known for offering what it calls “universal design,” with structures that allow children with disabilities to participate and encourage shared play experiences between able-bodied and disabled kids. Designs use The Americans with Disabilities’ Act Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas, which KOMPAN assisted the government in developing, as a guide. For more information, visit www.kompan.us/inclusive-universal-play.
The playground features an artificial grass surface similar to that used at Cullman High School’s stadium, with 4 inches of padding underneath, and a state-of-the-art underground drainage system that will make the area accessible to kids almost immediately after even a heavy rain storm.
Said Anderson, “We also wanted to make sure that, being that it’s going to be an attractive park, we wanted it to have all the necessary beautification, and drainage, and irrigation to keep that investment looking pretty.”
Adjacent to the playground will be features to appeal to a wide range of visitors:
- Four courts for pickleball, a fast-growing small-court sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis
- Two foursquare courts
- Full-size basketball court with professional grade dunkable rims
- Butterfly garden with a bench in the middle for visitors “looking for more of a serene space,” according to Anderson
- Concrete sidewalks designed and built to flow with the terrain of the park
- Dog park in a shaded area along the stream that runs through the park
- Shaded pavilion with restrooms and a large fan to create air circulation in the sitting/picnic area
- Plenty of open green spaces
All courts have tennis court surfaces. Later on, walkways will connect Ingle Park, the Field of Miracles, the Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center and Heritage Park.
According to Anderson, “You will have miles of connecting walkway very soon, with all of these parks. It will be lit at night, so we’ve thought through safety and security with the park; the area will be well-lit, the walkways will be well-lit.”
A community effort
“We have had far too many individual donors to really mention; I don’t want to leave anybody out,” said Anderson.
Corporate and organizational supporters of the project include:
- Rock the South, through parking sales, has given more than $150,000 to the project.
- Rotary Club gave a large donation for trees.
- The CP&R Foundation Board has overseen Rock the South parking, and has put on three “Dinner on First” events as fundraisers.
- The CP&R Board of Directors helped raise both awareness and funds for the project.
- After other donors had contributed enough to take care of the playground, along with some of the walkways and landscaping, the Cullman City Council voted to put up the remainder of the funds needed to finish the park.
Anderson commended the Cullman City Street Department for grading the site and laying concrete walkways, and the CP&R maintenance team for its constant labor on multiple facets of the project.
CP&R Board Chairman Rusty Turner told The Tribune, “We’re really excited about the Connected Playground and what it’s going to mean for Cullman. I believe it’s going to serve the whole community in such a way that will make all of Cullman proud, really. It’s a unique thing for Cullman, in one sense, but it’s building on what we’ve been trying to do with the Field of Miracles, you know, 11, 12 years ago; so it’s a perfect complement to the mission we have there, and trying to further that to make sure that everybody’s got a chance to play and have a good time in the parks.”
A grand opening ceremony will be held on Friday, June 29.
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