Construction of an inclusive, disability-accessible playground in Tuolumne — stalled for months by an above-average wet weather season — may conclude before summer, said Sarah Garcia, founder and president of Big Dreams Universally Accessible Parks and Playgrounds.
“It's kind of overwhelming when I go out there, because it feels like something I've been thinking about for so long, but I’m ready to see it finished. I'm ready to see the kids out there with their families,” Garcia said.
Before a torrent of storms landed on the Sierra Nevada region in late May, progress was being made on the bones and foundation of the playground.
Garcia said it may appear little progress has been made since last year, but she added much of the most time-consuming and important work was done underground, installing utilities and laying concrete.
“It’s like my other child. I've had this project in the back of my mind every day for the past seven years. To see it actually happen is amazing,” Garcia said.
Since the fall, contractors have installed curbing on the south side of the playground, which will hold rubber surfacing. Swingsets and a multi-person disk swing are planned to be installed there.
A concrete slab was installed, which will eventually be set with a recreational spinner and picnic benches. Open spots in the oval will hold trees and shrubs, and a toddler play area with artificial turf will be nearby.
A concrete sidewalk will connect the oval slab to a sloped ramp.
The ramp is the key feature of the playground, Garcia said, and will allow access to the central play structure by children with developmental or physical disabilities.
“Through that we decided we can do something for these kids here and for these parents. It quickly became a passion of quite a few people,” Garcia said.
Since 2012, Big Dreams has raised more than $300,000 in cash and in-kind donations, with the bulk of the funds coming from an anonymous donor and the Sonora Area Foundation.
The groundbreaking was on April 30, 2018. Initially, the project was slated for completion by September 2018, but Garcia said weather delays were coupled with difficulty in finding volunteers.
“We will be working again once we can get some dry weather. I'm sure every single construction company in the county is feeling the same way,” she said.