Sand Creek looks to build barrier-free playground

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Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Sand Creek Elementary School is raising funds to build the first barrier-free playground in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

A site plan developed by HGA Architects depicts an inclusive playground at Sand Creek Elementary School in Coon Rapids. The school is one-third of the way to its $300,000 fundraising goal. The school is looking to build the first barrier-free playground in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Rendering courtesy of Sand Creek Elementary School
A site plan developed by HGA Architects depicts an inclusive playground at Sand Creek Elementary School in Coon Rapids. The school is one-third of the way to its $300,000 fundraising goal. The school is looking to build the first barrier-free playground in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Rendering courtesy of Sand Creek Elementary School

In the past year, the school has received $105,000 in commitments – one-third of its $300,000 goal.

Barrier-free playgrounds are accessible to all students, including those who use wheelchairs and walkers. Inclusive play allows everyone to be socially and emotionally engaged, physically active, stimulated in a sensory-rich environment, ever thinking and always communicating.

Principal Paul Anderson has been dreaming about a new playground at Sand Creek since an addition was built onto the school in 2014, allowing students with developmental cognitive disabilities to return to their neighborhood school.

“We believe that all students deserve equal access to our playground, and we look forward to each of our Sand Creek Stars being able to be included in a new barrier-free playground designed for everyone,” Anderson said.

Some of Sand Creek’s nearly 800 students are excluded from using the playground with disabilities and must travel more than 10 miles to access a barrier-free playground.

Turtle Lake Elementary School in Shoreview broke ground on a barrier-free playground in 2014, and Sand Creek has sought their advice while working with HGA architects and engineers to design a playground in Coon Rapids, according to Jennifer Navarro, co-chairperson of the committee to bring a barrier-free playground to Sand Creek.

A pollinator garden, sensory play node, terraced amphitheater, rubberized play surface and a basketball court are some new elements proposed in HGA’s design. Barrier-free structures will complement existing play structures.

“I think this is kind of the next step towards making sure that all the kids have the same things available to them,” Navarro said. “We’re really looking for a community connection here, just hoping to drive some awareness that this is a park for the community. It’s not just for the school.”

Fundraising efforts will continue with an Apex Fun Run this spring. Last year’s run saw students raise $30,000 for the playground.

The committee continues to seek out corporate sponsorships. Steinwall Inc., a Coon Rapids business, is the project’s largest donor to date.

For more information, visit www.sandcreekelementarymnplayground.weebly.com.

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