By: Sharon Aron Baron
Parkland will soon be home to the nation’s first inclusive community park designed for children and adults of varying physical and cognitive abilities.
After years of planning and design, the City of Parkland will be breaking ground later this year on “Friendship Park,” at 6575 NW 76th Drive, formerly known as Terramar Park. Also, the groundbreaking will be The Friendship Initiative, an organization that helps special needs children.
The City has been at the forefront for years with respect to treating all individuals with respect and dignity, said Parkland Mayor Michael Udine.
“Our Parkland Buddy Sports program has received national recognition, even making the cover of Sports Illustrated,” said Udine. “At Terramar park a few years ago, we opened the “no limits” playground, which made the area accessible for both typical and non-typical children. Continuing in that vein, the city will continue with additional enhancements following the suggestions of the Friendship Initiative.”
The first phase of construction will have multi-use fields with a landscaped perimeter, including a single point of entry and exit to ensure the safety of all children. The city’s five-year plan also includes the construction of Phase 2, which is the installation of basketball courts, including the innovative Bankshot Basketball, an inclusive activity where players do not play against one another but alongside one another. Bankshot Sports are non-exclusionary, accommodate wheelchair players, the physically and cognitively challenged, grandparents, and children.
City Commissioner Christine Hunschofsky, an early supporter of the park, said, “I am absolutely thrilled that the City of Parkland will break ground on Phase 1 of Friendship Park. From day one, I have been a huge advocate of The Friendship Initiative’s vision to build the first-ever all-inclusive park right here in our city. This is a tremendous milestone for The Friendship Initiative, and more importantly, for our diverse and growing community.”
After full construction, Friendship Park will include: Doublewide walkways and pathways allowing for wheelchairs, walkers and adaptive bicycles; a sensory garden that engages each of the senses within a broader green landscaped area with a specific theme and with wide boardwalks running through it; large fully adaptive state of the art playground; a great lawn for events and productions; sculptured art in the park area; convenient parking provided for each element of the park.
Jeb Niewood, a Parkland resident and the founder and president of The Friendship Initiative, said, “We have a great relationship with the City of Parkland, and this is the culmination of a four-year dialogue and partnership with the city. With the planned construction of Phase 1, it is the end of the beginning of our shared journey. We believe that Friendship Park will be the model for all future community parks throughout the nation.”
Started in 2011, the mission of The Friendship Initiative (TFI) is to develop and grow programs that enable children with special needs and typical children to learn from each other and connect as friends and to build the nation’s first, totally inclusive community park. TFI is committed to raising the funds necessary to support this mission.