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Universal Design Playground Helps Children
Learn, Communicate, and Play

The new playground offers a balance of accessible play mixed with more challenging play elements

Landscape Architect: John Williams, PLA, ASLA, City of Omaha Parks, Recreation & Public Property


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The 25-year old playground at Benson Park was razed and replaced with a new 9,500 square foot play area. The play equipment and site furnishings are by Miracle Recreation. Rubber tile surfacing is installed throughout the play area. Photos: Grace Bradford, City of Omaha Parks


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Dragonfly and butterfly post toppers tie the play structure into the park setting and also the adjacent spray ground.


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Fully accessible ramps connect the play structures. The ramps begin at ground level and stand 5' tall.


Omaha, Nebraska (pop. 408,958) is centrally located on the eastern border of the state. The "Big O," also historically known as the "Gateway to the West," is on the western banks of the Missouri River; Iowans live on the eastern bank of the river. The oldest city park in Omaha is Hanscom Park, established in 1872. A new earth themed playground for the park was recently completed. The focus of this feature, however, is the 25-year old playground at Benson Park that was removed and replaced with a new 9,500 square foot play area.

The playground improvements to the park, which is about 4 mile straight shot north of the University of Nebraska Omaha campus, were focused around creating a play environment to provide access to all users and provide many opportunities for play and other recreation in a concentrated area within the park.

The new playground offers a balance of accessible play mixed with more challenging play elements. Dragonfly and butterfly post toppers tie the play structure into the park setting and also the adjacent spray ground. Highlights of the play area include a large play structure, which is fully accessible via ramps that connect the play features together. The ramps begin at ground level and continue to 5' above the surfacing. Interactive play panels featuring motion and tactile experiences are located on 'nodes' along the ramped access route. A four-bay set of swings is also provided that includes two swings that can accommodate children with mobility issues. Additionally, rubber tile surfacing is installed throughout the entire play area. Nearby picnic tables allow users to take a break and rest. An existing storage building with a covered porch area was incorporated into the layout to provide a shaded seating area. WhyArts? provided local artists to paint a creative and colorful mural on the building to help tie it into the playground.



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Near the playground and spray ground is a 1,070 sq. ft. wheel chair-accessible fishing pier that extends out into the pond. A roof shades about half the pier.


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A 15' x 50' shade canopy next to the spray ground offers 8 new accessible picnic table pads and grills. The custom painted water features display cattails, grasses, flowers, ladybugs and other insects


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A four-bay set of swings includes two swings that can accommodate children with disabilities.


The spray ground is 3,250 square feet and includes 29 water play features. The theme for the spray ground is that of a pond and is conveyed through the surfacing and the custom painted water features. The surface of the spray ground uses polymer pebble-like surfacing and is designed with waves of light blue, dark blue, green and lily pad accents. The custom painted water features exhibit cattails, grasses, flowers, lady bugs and other insects. A large 15' x 50' shade canopy is provided at the edge of the spray ground to give some relief from the sun.

Finally, a large 1,070 square foot fishing pier was installed into the existing pond and near the playground and spray ground. The pier features a roof covering about half the pier and has multiple areas for wheel chair accessible fishing.

Improvements to Benson Park began in the spring of 2013 with upgrades to the picnic areas, which included a large picnic shelter, accessible picnic pads with accessible tables and grills, additional walking trails and improvements to the parking areas. In the fall of 2014 renovations began on the playground, spray ground and fishing pier.



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The spray pad covers 3,250 sq. ft. and incorporates 29 water play elements. The surfacing and the custom painted water features convey a pond theme. The polymer pebble-like surfacing is designed with waves of light blue, dark blue, green and lily pad accents. The spray ground equipment is from Water Odyssey.


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The ALLPLAY Miracle League baseball field is a $125,000 rubberized surface that measures 110' down both lines and 125' to dead center. The color scheme replicates not only the "grass" areas of a baseball field, but the batters box, base paths and pitchers mound. The bases, markings are painted onto the field, as is the flat pitchers.


All the above improvements were completed in the spring of 2015 and everything is open and already being used heavily!


Landscape Architect: John Williams, PLA, ASLA, City of Omaha Parks, Recreation & Public Property
General Contractor: Dostals Construction

Playground Equipment: Miracle Recreation, Distributed by Crouch Recreation
Spray Ground Equipment: Water Odyssey, Distributed by Crouch Recreation
Site Furnishings: Miracle Recreation, Distributed by Crouch Recreation

Funding Support
City of Omaha Park, Recreation & Public Property
Robert B. Daughtery Foundation
Bruce & Sheila Froendt
Peter Kiewit Foundation
William & Ruth Scott Family Foundation
The Lozier Foundation
Sherwood Foundation



As seen in LASN magazine, September 2017.






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