Shante Deal said her children usually got bored in recent years when she brought them to Roberto Clemente Park because there was no playground equipment.
“I’ve lived here for 10 years,” Deal said. “A long time ago the swings at this park were vandalized, and the only thing that remained were empty poles.” But late Thursday afternoon, Deal watched her 9-year-old son, Jayden, play on a seesaw, just days after crews finished installing more than $200,000 in play equipment at the park.
City officials are calling the facility Paterson’s first “inclusive playground,” because it includes features that can be enjoyed by children in wheelchairs.
“The steps to the slides are built so that a child can climb out of a wheelchair onto them and hoist him or herself up,” said Patrick Edmonds of KOMPAN, the company that built the playground. “Also, children who have special needs have easy access to items such as music panels, so they can engage in play with all the other children.”
Paterson Public Information Officer Dacil Tilos pointed to a row of chimes, which may be touched by children for auditory exercise, and a group of spinning cylinders designed to help children learn about numbers and words.
Deal welcomed the “inclusive” features, saying one of her children has special needs. “I think the new playground equipment will much better enable him to play and have fun,” she said.
Rossy Cabrera said her daughter, Shardae McIntosh, had noticed the playground being installed recently and was eager to try it out. “She has been asking me practically every day since then when we could go,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera said she is not comfortable visiting any parks near her home. “I don’t feel safe where I live, when there are always groups of young men hanging around,” Cabrera explained. “You don’t know what will happen, if they are selling drugs or if a fight will break out.”
The rustling of fallen leaves could be heard as children ran around the playground. A 62-year-old woman watched her 7- and 10-year-old granddaughters playing. “A lot of equipment has been vandalized here. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes,” said the woman, who gave only her first name, Carol. “I feel really happy about the kids having this nice, new place. They are having so much fun, they aren’t going to want to leave.”
Officials said the playground was funded through a $75,000 grant from Passaic County Open Space, $115,000 from the Lowe’s 100 Hometowns project, and $15,000 from the Friends of Paterson Parks. The A&E television show Live Rescue, which previously filmed in Paterson, also made a donation, officials said.