a park for all

Inclusive new county park welcomes Houstonians of all abilities

Inclusive new county park welcomes Houstonians of all abilities

James Driver Park Houston all inclusive
James Driver Park is the city's first all-inclusive space. Photo courtesy of Harris County Precinct 2

In a city lush with greenspace, Houston is about to debut a first. James Driver Inclusive Park, when it opens on Saturday, December 11, will be the first community park created specifically for visitors of every experience, ability, and special need on the spectrum.

Attendees can join the ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony that starts at noon at the park in Aldine (10918 Bentley St.); Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia will lead the ceremonies.

“James Driver Inclusive Park will be the flagship park for Precinct 2 and all of Harris County,” Garcia tells CultureMap. “I expect it to transform how we all think about community spaces and inclusivity. Approximately half a million residents of Harris County live with some sort of physical or cognitive disability, yet, somehow, this park is the first of its kind in Harris County. James Driver Park will be a game-changer for so many families who have children with mobility or sensory issues or even parents who are in wheelchairs.”

Key park amenities include:

  • An improved and widened walking trail that will accommodate two people in wheelchairs, side by side
  • A playground featuring specially designed, wheelchair-friendly equipment where kids can spin, sway, swing, slide and splash
  • An outdoor gaming and fitness area featuring bocce, shuffleboard, chess tables, corn hole, bean bag toss and fitness equipment
  • A misting area and plenty of shade, providing relief from the heat
  • A remodeled and expanded community center, open in back to reveal lush green space
  • A covered dining space and outdoor picnic areas
  • A sensory garden featuring indigenous perennials
  • An event lawn and pavilion for musical and other entertainment
  • An art wall for installations of art by local artists
  • A cistern that will capture rainwater for water play and irrigationA METRO bus stop and plenty of parking
  • A designated parking area for taco and other food trucks

Parents and families can look for these key features for those with special needs, per press materials:

Big bridge
The bridge’s design allows for self-regulated play experiences for children of all ages and abilities to exercise risk, failure, and mastery. An extra-wide ramp and bridge (8 feet) allows for people in wheelchairs and/or mobility devices to easily pass side by side barrier free.

Three play towers offer graduated challenges for climbing, sliding, and balancing, while the overall 80-foot long structure offers areas of respite for all ages and abilities to enjoy the park from above.

Shoulder wheel and serpentine path
These two peripheral elements are designed for older adults or persons with mobility challenges to exercise independently. The shoulder wheel is designed specifically to increase shoulder mobility; the serpentine path uses hand/eye coordination to strengthen small motor skills.

Sensory garden
Studies show the greener the play area, the better the concentration and mental function.  The sensory garden utilizes a crazy maze, rolling bells, and serpentine path to foster motor skills and hand eye coordination.

A key element is the ability here to easily withdraw from the active play area but still feel incorporated in the activity as an onlooker for those who may get overwhelmed easily. The sensory garden also appeals to at least one of the five senses; sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.

For those not local, Garcia notes that the greenspace is well worth the drive for its inclusivity, tangible benefits, and its ability to create a joyful, all encompassing experience. “This park allows families to all play together,” he adds.

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