La PORTE — A renovated and inclusive playground is on the horizon for La Porte.

The groundbreaking celebration for La Park’s new multigenerational, inclusive playground rebuild took place on June 11.

The park is located next the Bethany Lutheran Church at the corner of First and G Streets. The park is being rebuilt to be more wheelchair accessible – a consideration that was not fully accommodated when the park was previously built.

“We wanted it to be accessible to children of all abilities, and that is what has driven this idea forward,” said Bethany Lutheran Church Pastor Dennis Meyer said.

The idea for the rebuild came from church member, Carrie Garwood who shared with the audience the story that inspired the vision for La Park’s redesign.

“There was a little boy on the playground. He was with his friends and his motorized wheelchair, which he controlled with a mouthpiece, couldn’t reach the other end of the park. When the rest of the kids ran to the other side of the park, and he couldn’t go. He just kind of sat at the other end of the playground by himself,” Garwood said.

She continued, “I thought, we can do better than this. If we’re going to be putting new mulch in here every year, maybe we should be looking into what inclusivity means.”

Solid, “rubbery” surfacing will be replacing the dirt and mulch that had been present on the playground. The new surfacing will make the playground more accessible, but still safe for children to play.

The entire rebuild is expected to cost more than $400,000 and was funded through public donations.

“We were able to see a lot people giving $20 gifts, and that tells you that this neighborhood wants it. I think that’s truly what this is about,” Garwood said.

Local organizations provided enough funds to get the project moving. The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte awarded a $100,000 grant to La Park’s inclusive rebuild. The grant money paid for nearly all of the solid surfacing necessary for wheelchair accessibility.

“It is part of our vision to have the La Porte community at-large become one of the healthiest communities by 2030,” said Maria Fruth president and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte. “One [way to accomplish that] is by making absolutely sure that our community has access to parks and playgrounds and infrastructure to invite them outdoors. We need to make sure that the infrastructure is appropriate for all levels.”

Some other big contributors included the Reeve Foundation, named after “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve who became paraplegic after falling from a horse, IHCDA, the Bethany Foundation, Dunes Hospice and American Licorice.

The excessive rainfall in the area delayed the project’s groundbreaking for a couple months, but the park is expected to be completed by August of this year.

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