On April 30, Cambridge city officials, employees, friends and neighbors gathered for a special ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Louis A. DePasquale Universal Design Playground.
The 30,000 square foot playground, which opened in Danehy Park in December 2021, is the first in Cambridge to fully incorporate Universal Design (UD) – the concept that all rooms should be as usable as possible, without modifications, by everyone. In addition to physical accessibility, UD takes into consideration sensory, cognitive and emotional abilities to create a welcoming environment for all wherever possible.
The UD Playground will be dedicated in honor of Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, who will retire after 45 years of service.
The park has been designed for children, caregivers and visitors of all ages and abilities to play, discover and enjoy:
- the Swing Zone, Spin Zone and Climbing Slope encourage independent and interactive play.
- the Junior playground features a train-shaped play structure with climbing elements and a double slide.
- the Senior playground features a tower, sliding bars and a slide. People can access the tower by crossing an elevated bridge, climbing a ladder, or using sliding bars. Visitors can also use a talk-tube network to send messages to different parts of the structure.
- The slides have horizontal tubes – a sensory characteristic that people can feel and hear when sliding.
- the Sensory walking area features a track designed with strips of crushed stone, concrete and granite cobblestones. Whether or not someone is using a mobility device, they experience tactile and auditory responses from the changing textures. The plantings on either side of the trail stimulate the senses of smell, sight and touch.
- A music space at the end of the sensory walk area invites visitors to play rain and chime sounds. The plantings on either side of the trail stimulate the senses of smell, sight and touch.
- the “Sensory Hill” is accessed by an accessible maze-like path. The wooden elements of the Hilltop, designed by Cambridge artist Mitch Ryerson, are crafted from black locust wood, which resists rotting and splintering. The “Sensory Hilltop” features log steppers, a wooden marimba where visitors can experiment with sound, and benches with 3D animal shapes that invite tactile exploration. In spring and summer, a “Scentsation” vine will provide shade and the scent of honeysuckle.
- “Pipe Dreams” is an artistic sculpture that celebrates the industrial heritage of Danehy Park. The tunnel-like form, designed by middle and high school students from NuVu studio in the central square, features smooth wooden planks that curve, windows and handles that invite climbing.
- Colorful paintings by Dominic Michael Killiany, a prolific local artist with autism, bring the walls of the playground and the interior of a play structure to life.
- the splashpad will provide fun water games during the summer months. It includes junior and senior game elements and seats for observers.
- Cast-in-place (PIP) rubber liner covers the floor between play structures, swing and spin areas, climbing slope and sensory apex, creating a cushioned, non-slip surface that provides fall protection and is smooth for people who use devices of mobility.
In addition to inclusive play features, durability was a design priority. Natural and recycled materials have been incorporated as much as possible and over 60 new trees have been planted in the playground. The ‘Sensory Hilltop’ Robinia wood was harvested from trees felled during the city’s Glacken Hill restoration project.
The UD Playground was designed by Weston & Sampson Design Studio. A focus group, made up of Cambridge parents, parents, local educators and city staff, worked closely with the design team to solicit community input and develop park concepts . www.cambridgema.gov/UDPlayground.
Pictured: Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, with his family: daughter, Kristen, wife, Cheryl, and son, Louis at the unveiling of the apron sign. During the special ceremony, several friends and city officials spoke of City Manager DePasquale’s lifelong commitment to the city, born and raised in Cambridge, raising a family, serving as a coach of the little league and working for the city of Cambridge.