Athens’ First Accessible Playground Open

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After three years in the making, Athens now has a playground accessible to nearly everyone. Athens Rotary Club and community members gathered at the playground Monday afternoon for the grand opening.

The Athens Rotary Southside Accessible Playground is the first of its kind in Athens.

The playground, which is located on Dairy Lane and Richland Avenue, is complete with swings, ramps, playground equipment and rubber surfacing that makes playtime possible for average children and for those with various physical and developmental disabilities.

The new equipment even makes it easier for adults who may have physical disabilities or be confined to wheelchairs. The sidewalk on Richland Avenue and the bike path now go through the park, as well, states a news release.

Jody Harris, past president of Rotary Club and chairwoman of the Southside Accessible Playground Committee, listed contributions from organizations such as Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund, Athens Foundation, O’Bleness Foundation and Friends of India Endowment, along with many more.

The Rotary Club raised $97,000 for the project. To further beautify the park, the Athens Rotary teamed up with Project Plant to create the Dr. Ram Gawande Memorial Garden. Gawande was a Rotary Club president and district governor.

“I think it turned out wonderful,” Harris said.

Harris said she has been working with people with disabilities her whole life. When she heard the Rotary Club in Cambridge had an accessible playground, she was inspired to build one in Athens.

"This is why I love Athens," said Mayor Paul Wiehl. "This is what we want to be. We want to be unique. We want to be a community that feels good about itself, that works towards and strives to make it an inclusive city.”

Wiehl said that he wants every Athens facility to work for everybody.

Harris said that the rubber surfacing on the playground is what really makes it accessible for everyone.