An “American innovation.” That’s how Bill Futterer describes the design of a proposed universal playground at East Clayton Community Park.
Futterer is a Clayton resident who sits on the committee raising money for the project. He says the playground will play a vital role in the lives of both able-bodied children and those with special needs.
“This playground is so dynamic in its concept that it will become a destination point for people, not just people in Johnston County and Clayton, but people in surrounding counties,” Futterer said.
“We think this will have a major impact on people and businesses who are making relocation decisions and expansion decisions.”
With surfaces and equipment accessible by foot, to wheelchairs and other assistive technology, the playground will feature three main areas: Create, Celebrate and Contemplate. And each area, Futterer said, will serve a different purpose.
For instance, Contemplate will likely be a more quiet space, perhaps for children who are easily stressed or overstimulated. Celebrate will have an elevated structure children can play in, and Create will include a crafts area.
The group hasn’t yet released the actual design of the playground but expects to unveil the proposed layout later this month.
The Town of Clayton, which budgeted $20,000 for the design, hired CLH Design PA to complete the rendering. Caterpillar, whose Product Development Center is near the proposed playground, has said it will take care of site preparation, nearly an $80,000 commitment.
The fundraising committee, made up of nearly a dozen area residents and elected officials, will next look to raise the estimated $600,000 needed for construction.
Clayton resident Jean Sandaire, who chairs the fundraising committee, said his wife, Wallicia, teaches special-needs students at Cooper Elementary School. He said he knows many families seeking new options for recreation.
“They are very limited in what they can do at those existing structures,” Sandaire said, adding that children in wheelchairs often have a hard time accessing the equipment.
Sandaire, who also sits on the town’s Planning Board, said this is Clayton’s chance to show its evolution as a community that’s concerned for all people, not just certain populations or groups.
The committee will seek donations from businesses and organizations. However, the committee is also working with state and local leaders, as grant funding might be available to help pay for the project.
Earlier this year, the state awarded another Johnston County group a $350,000 matching grant for a similar park project in Smithfield. The Partnership to Build a Miracle applied for the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to help pay for an inclusive playground and special sports field at Smithfield Community Park. The group plans to break ground on the estimated $1 million project during a ceremony Nov. 13.
Clayton’s universal playground will be located on about 2 acres behind the baseball field at East Clayton Community Park. For more information, search “Universal Playground-East Clayton Community Park” on Facebook.