FAIRMONT – Norwood Park’s transformation on the East Side will take a big step forward this week.
On Tuesday, the Town of Fairmont will hold a public hearing at the Public Safety Building from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to gather community ideas and feedback on the Norwood Park project. Current plans call for the park to be transformed into an inclusive park, allowing anyone of all ages and abilities to play together in one space.
In 2017, the Fairmont Parks Commission planned to ârevitalizeâ many of the city’s parks. On their radar was Norwood Park, a small playground on the East Side of little interest, but the location and property has a lot of potential. The park is located at the corner of Morgantown Avenue and Suncrest Boulevard near the Victory Baptist Church.
The commission continued to plan for the park over the next year and in the fall of 2019 announced that Norwood Park would become all-inclusive. The committee voted and approved the decision to redevelop the site.
In May, the city’s parks commission met again around the theme of Norwood Park to take stock of the progress of the project. At the meeting, the committee was joined by Jim Christie of Civil & Environmental Consultants, landscape architect and project manager, who led a discussion on the Norwood project.
At the May reunion, Christie unveiled a conceptual render for the new Norwood Park. The commission was satisfied with the progress made by the CEC and Christie. Norwood Park is adjacent to a property owned by Novelis’ Fairmont location, which has pledged up to $ 75,000 to fund the purchase of playground equipment. The company will also provide volunteers. who will work on the park renovation project.
âWhat we did was we included other groups to be all inclusive,â Christie said at the May meeting. “The Disability Action Center is a big part of that, Morgantown’s PlayWorks, Messenger Speech Therapy, WVU Music Therapy, and the Challenger League.”
Too often, with projects like these, planners and architects avoid consulting with community members who are affected by their project, but CEC has approached those who stand to gain the most from the new inclusive park. Many organizations, such as DAC and PlayWorks, which work with people with disabilities have directly contributed to the project.
âThe CEC did an incredible job with the concept,â said Julie Sole, director of the DAC. “We gave [CEC] lots of ideas when it came time to come up with a design and CEC really hit him out of the stadium.
The concept of Norwood Park goes far beyond the usual playground. The concept includes sensory spaces, communication walls, fully accessible to residents who experience different forms of mobility and an integration of inclusive elements, rather than adding them.
âThese are the components we were looking for – unique, safe, accessible and inclusive,â Sole said. âFor that, their initial concept is fantastic.
While most parks have ADA compliant items, those items are usually an afterthought. A park will have a swing, then on the side is a single wheelchair swing.
âWe want inclusion to be a natural process, not a forced process,â said Mike Lentz, owner of PlayWorks. âIt’s not really inclusion if it’s forced. By making these parks [inclusive] Right from the start, inclusion is natural and that’s what all parents want for their kids … they want it to be easy for their kids.
This inclusive park seeks to integrate these elements by putting everyone on the same level.
âThere are a lot of things that children who don’t develop normally learn from their peers that typically develop,â Lentz said. “They want to do what they do, they want to be included.”
And these interactions are healthy, not only for people with special needs, but for the education of all concerned.
“It is very important for people with special needs to interact with people who have a ‘typical function’, you might say,” Sole said. “But it’s even more important for children and normally developing adults to interact with … people with special needs.”
âIt will really promote inclusion,â Lentz said. âYou can’t just call something inclusive and hope it works, you have to build it from the inside out. “
This park will not be just for children, but for people of all ages. Generally, playground equipment is not designed to accommodate a full-sized adult. However, plans call for the equipment in this new park to be specially designed to accommodate adults.
âWe wanted to take into account the height and weight of individuals and how everyone can have access to all areas of the park,â Sole said. âThere will be no space for people with special needs and space for people without developmental disabilities – it’s all there together.
“This is how the world should be.”
Questions or suggestions regarding the Norwood Project should be sent to Hanna Turner, City of Fairmont Marketing and Communications Manager, at [email protected]