Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Clarksburg’s Vice Mayor, Jim Malfregoet, two more city parks will soon have ADA compliant playground equipment installed, allowing children confined to wheelchairs to enjoy the facilities. There are currently handicap accessible swings installed at both the VA and Stealey Parks, and plans to do the same at Nutter Fort and North View are now in place.
The fourth set of ADA swings completes Malfregoets vision for this special project, which has been in the works since he made an observation in the summer of 2014. While at the VA Park for a graduation party, Malfregoet and his wife witnessed a young child in a wheelchair watching as other kids played, because most of the equipment was elevated and inaccessible. “We have these beautiful parks and all children should be able to enjoy them”, said Malfregoet.
It was at the very next City Council meeting that Malfregoet, a Councilman at the time, proposed the idea of upgrades to local parks, making them more accessible to handicapped children. The City Council jumped on board with the project immediately, and the motion was unanimously approved and granted initial funding.
After receiving approval, work went into researching equipment, ADA guidelines, and potential companies. The first park addressed was the VA in October of 2014. Just a few weeks ago, the installation was completed at Stealey Park. The third set of swings is in and ready for installation, while funding for the fourth set was secured in April with the help of WV State Senator Facemire. After reading an article about the efforts of Malfregoet, Senator Facemire took the issue to Charleston, and the City of Clarksburg was awarded a Governor’s Community Partnership Grant in the amount of $5,000 to acquire the final set of swings.
Two types of swings were purchased for each park. The Wheelchair Swing Platform which allows the entire wheelchair to swing and eliminates the need for a difficult transition to and from the chair. The structure’s design also features a built-in ramp allowing the chair operator to not only access the platform, but also initiate the swinging motion. The second type, the Therapeutic Swing, allows the child to be placed directly in the seat of the swing, which is molded to ensure adequate support and security.
The continuation of these important changes to area facilities will further improve the experiences of families at local parks, and accomplish what Malfregoet set out to do: giving all children the opportunity “to feel the wind in their face”.