Lake opens all-inclusive playground

By Heather Michon

Dozens of Lake Monticello families turned out on Saturday (Sept. 30) for the ribbon-cutting and official opening of the new All-Inclusive Playground at Lafayette Park.

It was a moment two years in the making. The playground is the first significant project of the Lake Monticello Community Foundation, a charitable organization founded during the pandemic to support efforts to enhance life at Lake Monticello.

The total cost for the project, including purchasing and installing the new playground equipment, new surfacing, and fencing, was around $100,000. LMCF President Nancy Parsons said they had received grants and support from sponsors like Bama Works, Mill Creek Orthodontics, Avenue Realty, and State Farm. 

Still, much of the funding ultimately came from small donors within Lake Monticello. “It was a true community effort,” she said.

The project was done in partnership with the Lake Monticello Owners Association. LMCF was given access to the existing playground and used its own funds to construct the new facility.  Going forward, LMOA will maintain the playground the same as any other Lake amenity. 

Parsons said the LMOA had been extremely supportive of the project from the start, and the assistance of staff members like Facilities Manager Mark Lugar had been vital throughout the process. 

“This community has been through some controversial issues the last few months, you all know that,” said LMOA Board President Larry Henson. “But this, today, is what Lake Monticello is all about…This is the good stuff, right here.”

Parsons said the idea for the playground came from a conversation with Jennifer Kingrea, a wheelchair-bound Lake Monticello mother who mentioned how hard it was to take her kids to a park because she couldn’t easily supervise them. From there, the idea of a playground accessible to children and caregivers of all physical and mental abilities was born.

The principles of all-inclusive playgrounds are simple: creating a safe and engaging play environment that can be used by children at all levels of development and accessed by adult caregivers regardless of age or mobility. 

The Lafayette Park playground is surfaced with a special soft material that is wheelchair-friendly and can help reduce scrapes and bumps. A low fence surrounds the play area, and there are benches for caregivers to sit while they monitor the yard. Brightly-colored play equipment is designed to be easy to access. 

Despite the need, these types of playgrounds are extremely rare. The closest facility to Lake Monticello is a small park south of Richmond. The website lists only eight facilities statewide, most of them in Northern Virginia or the Virginia Beach area.

Because of this scarcity, Lafayette Park will be open to all families in Fluvanna who need it– even if they live outside Lake Monticello. Parsons said they are working out details to make sure families can pass through the main gate to get to the playground.

Safe and inclusive play certainly doesn’t limit the fun. As soon as the ribbon-cutting and speechifying were done, children swarmed the new equipment and began to play.

Lafayette Park is located at 17 Lafayette Drive at Lake Monticello.

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