101 Things To Do: Woodridge Park Inclusive Playground in Cottage Grove
Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.
When several Cottage Grove residents decided the community needed a playground that could accommodate children of all abilities, they formed a task force, and after more than three years of planning, designing, and fundraising, the Woodridge Park Inclusive Playground opened in 2017.
"It is overwhelming the amount of feedback that we have gotten from people who live in the community, and people who make it a destination playground and come from all over to use it," said Molly Pietruszewski, recreation services manager for Cottage Grove Parks.
The million-dollar project started with funds from the city supported by grants and donations from local businesses and citizens. The playground truly became a community project when it was time to assemble it.
"We did a three-day community build," Pietruszewski said. "Two days were for businesses who had donated money, and then they donated their time. Saturday was a community build."
In planning the playground, the group tried to take into consideration any factors that might otherwise limit a child being able to utilize any of the 82 pieces of equipment available. Areas of the park include gliders, sand boxes, tactile elements to touch, a sensory garden, and a number of slides and climbing sections.
"We really tried to make sure that there was something there for everyone," she said. "We have seen a lot of kids out there with therapists following directions and moving about the playground."
While not everything in the park is wheelchair accessible, "the majority of it is," Pietruszewski said. "It is not that high of a park, but how the ground kind of ebbs and flows does give you the feeling of being high up, the way it sets into the hill."
Beneath all the pieces of equipment is a soft, rubber surfacing. It was the most expensive component in the park, according to Pietruszewski, so the committee pushed to make sure the fundraising would cover that.
"It meets all the criteria for falls," she said. "You can crawl on it. Grandparents can walk about it safely. An adult with a walker can move on it. We didn't want to have a reason that someone couldn't come to the park."
The surfacing also eliminates another concern — weather. "There is no mud, no standing water. You can go whenever you want," Pietruszewski said.
If you go...
Woodridge Park Inclusive Playground
Address: 9000 90th St. S., Cottage Grove, Minn.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily