CDC’s accessible playground underway; funds still being raised

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CDC Principal Chris Chambers shows off the new playground equipment designed to offer fun experiences to kids of all levels of ability. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After lots of waiting, hoping and fundraising, the Cullman County Child Development Center (CDC) is seeing its new accessible playground start to take shape. Principal Chris Chambers took The Tribune on a tour this week.

Rather than rebuild the existing playground on the south side of the CDC complex, designers and planners found a more secure location behind the building that required a minimum of site preparation and offered other advantages.  

Said Chambers, “We decided to go with this area. We’re going to save money, it’s going to be closer to bathrooms, it’s going to be more secure.  It was just more feasible. The more we’ve looked into it, the more we studied it and tried to be frugal, tried to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and resources.  We were able to save a whole lot in prep work and get things done quicker.”

The equipment for the first phase of the project has been installed, and the site is awaiting the installation of underground drainage and surface coverings.  There are climbing devices, artificial rocks, activity stations and slides; ramps allow handicap access to the heart of the playground and to a rocking device that can accommodate wheelchairs.  

Chambers shared, “Phase one is fully funded right now with the funds that we have collected, and also with local assistance through our board of education (and) all of our donations we got up to this point, and that’s been on the Leanstream (crowdfunding) website.  We’re very happy with phase one, and we should be able to use this next school year.

“Now, phase two through five- we’re really just calling phase two right now- we’re in the process of still doing small grants, small donations from any type of corporations.  But we’re looking at a grant right now, an ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) grant, of $250,000, and Cullman (County) Economic Development has agreed to write that grant for us. We’re getting them information and working together.  Our board of education along with Cullman Economic Development’s writing a grant to hopefully fund the rest of the project.

“We’re in constant contact right now with different clubs, different organizations, different businesses, to see what else they can do, because we’ve got to still put a fence around it, still got to have an entryway.  But this right here gives people an image of ‘Hey, this is what it is.’ There’s so much sensory items there, and it’s going to be fully accessible to wheelchairs.  It’s going to be safe; it’s going to be clean, modern.”

The main structure will be for students ages 5 and older.  Separate areas in upcoming phases will house basketball goals, physical therapy and occupational therapy equipment, and a special section for pre-K children.  Chambers hopes to see the first phase open for students this fall.

He concluded, “I’m just really proud of the people who’ve stepped up so far.  I’m proud of our local legislators, I’m proud of our superintendent (Dr. Shane Barnette) and our board, our board member Mike Graves.  Our Cullman Economic Development, they’ve stepped up. Our state and federal ADECA people have stepped up. I want to see more people get on board like these people have.  Senator (Garlan) Gudger, (Rep.) Randall Shedd has went above and beyond; I’m really proud to partner with them, along with Peoples Bank, our corporate sponsor.  We’ve had some local schools actually chipped in some money: Good Hope Middle School did a fundraiser, a penny drop, and raised over $1,000 for us.  So hats off to Mr. (Alan) Dunkling, the principal there. That’s what we’re talking about.  Those kids came through and did a huge service to these kids who can’t do it for themselves.”

​Get involved

An online crowdfunding campaign for the next phases and completion of the playground is underway through Leanstream.  For more information or to donate, visit www.leanstreamrp.com/projects/view/355.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com