Vancouver Parks and Recreation seeks public input on new, inclusive playground at Esther Short Park

Installed in 1998, the playground equipment at Esther Short Community Park has reached the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced

VANCOUVER – Vancouver Parks and Recreation is seeking public input on a new, inclusive playground it plans to build at Esther Short Park (West Eighth and Columbia streets) in spring 2022. 

Installed in 1998, the playground equipment at Esther Short Community Park has reached the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced. Photo by Mike Schultz
Installed in 1998, the playground equipment at Esther Short Community Park has reached the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced. Photo by Mike Schultz

Installed in 1998, the playground equipment at Esther Short Community Park has reached the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced. This a strategic opportunity to increase equitable access to play at one of the most popular destinations in the city’s parks system. The new playground at Esther Short Park will be the first endeavor completed under Project Play, Vancouver Parks and Recreation’s vision to strategically place inclusive playgrounds at key parks in the city.

The new playground design incorporates adaptive equipment and natural materials that are foundational to the Harper’s Playground inclusive model. The unstructured play environment promotes exploration and is generally preferred by children and parents, including those who do not experience disability. Decorative elements of the design reference the historical significance of the park and honor its Victorian aesthetic. The new playground will replace the existing playground on the west side of the park.

“We are excited to share these plans with the community,” said Vancouver Parks and Recreation Director Julie Hannon. “We are committed to making Vancouver parks welcoming spaces where all members of our community can build connections with neighbors and nature. Creating radically inclusive play spaces with the expertise of Harper’s Playground is an important step for our community.”

Vancouver residents are encouraged to visit www.beheardvancouver.org/project-play to get a first look at plans to transform the Esther Short Park playground. Visitors to the site can click through an architectural rendering, ask questions and leave feedback on the proposed design.

The playground design is a partnership with Harper’s Playground, an Oregon-based nonprofit that creates inviting playgrounds for people of all abilities. Cody and April Goldberg founded Harper’s Playground in 2010 to create a play space for their daughter, Harper, who uses wheels to get around.

The Harper’s Playground model builds inclusive playgrounds where everyone can play together. Pictured is the playground at Arbor Lodge Park in Portland, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Harper’s Playground. Photo courtesy of city of Vancouver
The Harper’s Playground model builds inclusive playgrounds where everyone can play together. Pictured is the playground at Arbor Lodge Park in Portland, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Harper’s Playground. Photo courtesy of city of Vancouver

“We are designing the Esther Short Park playground to be accessible and adaptive so that the space is physically inviting; we are highlighting nature so that it’s socially inviting; and we are being creative with artistic details so that the playground is emotionally inviting,” explains Harper’s Playground co-founder Cody Goldberg. “We are thrilled to be collaborating with Vancouver Parks and Recreation on this project and are excited to see strong community support for our shared vision.”

Addressing Community Needs Through Play

The most recent available U.S Census data shows that one in five Americans has a disability. Public school districts in Vancouver report that over 14% of enrolled students will receive special education services in 2020-2021, according to the Washington State Report Card from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Most playgrounds incorporate accessibility basics like ramps, barrier-free travel routes and limited play options to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 2010 playground rules. However, these changes do little to create a truly inclusive and welcoming space where people of all abilities can play together and thrive. 

About Harper’s Playground

Harper’s Playground is a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon, whose mission is to inspire vital communities by creating inviting playgrounds for people of all abilities. They are a globally recognized leader in the movement to make public play spaces more inviting for everyone. Their community-driven roots date to the founding by local parents on a mission to create a more equitable world for their daughters, one of whom uses wheels to get around. Together with their community, they designed, funded and built a brand new, first of its kind, fully-inclusive, nature-based playground at Arbor Lodge Park. For more information, visit www.harpersplayground.org.

Information provided by city of Vancouver.

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