Binghamton now home to largest fully-accessible park in NYS
OurSpace Park Opened in Recreation Park in June 2016
By Gabriella Weick – Pipe Dream, June 27, 2016
Kevin Sussy/Photography Editor
The City of Binghamton is now home to OurSpace Park, the largest fully accessible, multi-generational playground in the state of New York.
Located at Recreational Park on Beethoven Street, OurSpace opened its doors to community members on June 7. The park began as a partnership between Binghamton University student groups and Life is Washable, Inc. a nonprofit for special needs individuals and their families, and grew into a community-wide sponsored by the city of Binghamton Mayor's Office and the Parks and Recreation Department.
According to Jennifer O'Brien, the executive director of Life is Washable, after numerous students and student groups at BU became involved and collaborated with Life is Washable, OurSpace was awarded $500,000 grant from the Regional Economic Development Council and Gov. Cuomo in 2014 to create a park that was accessible to all people of all abilities.
Two years later, following the help of over 540 volunteers from BU and the community and monetary donations from individuals, local businesses and foundations, OurSpace broke group in March 2016. The project's totaled costs and time valued at over one million dollars.
"It was a crazy idea and if anyone would have told us that we were gonna build a million-dollar playground in three years, we would have laughed," O'Brien said. "We began with a budget that we were never going to go over $300,000."
The park was designed by Play by Design, a company from Ithaca, New York. O'Brien said the park is not only for children but is multi-generational and includes equipment accessible to both adults and children with or without mobility impairments and supportive of sensory needs by not being too colorful and and totally accessible.
The four-acre playground includes an accessible merry-go-round, instruments, a natural play area, a wheelchair-accessible treehouse, amongst various other equipment for both adults and children of all needs.
Seeing the park welcome hundreds of attendees on opening day, O'Brien said, was moving.
"I think the most fun I've seen was seeing a grandpa slide down the slide with his grandson, and I couldn't tell you who was giggling louder," O'Brien said. "That was a pretty rewarding moment."
BU Student-athletes, fraternities, sororities and service groups such as Circle K were involved in the sponsorship and building of OurSpace. O'Brien also said that Jimmy Gray and Javon Ralling, two BU 2015 master's graduates, were also a major source of support.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Scholars Program in the School of Management (SOM) was one group that was involved in the project from the beginning, according to Dina Layish, an associate professor in SOM and advisor to the PwC Scholars program.
Layish said the group raised over $14,000 in the 2013-2014 academic year and secured another $20,000 donation from Visions Federal Credit Union that year. The group also spent 2013-14 and 2014-2015 academic years helping to research and raise money for the Wendy's Walk for Kids foundation, in which OurSpace was chosen as a 2015 recipient of their grant.
"We are so happy to see this project come to fruition," Layish wrote in an email. "It is truly a welcome addition to the parks throughout Binghamton. We have enjoyed being involved in such an amazing project."
BU President Harvey Stenger commended the BU students involved in making OurSpace a reality, and welcomed the innovative addition to the city.
"This project is groundbreaking on so many levels, and I am happy that the University has had a part in making play accessible for all in Binghamton," Stenger wrote in an email. "I love seeing our student come together and work with the community on projects that have such a positive impact on the local area."
Ultimately, O'Brien said that she values the diversity in the playground-goers, from attendees of all ages and background and looks forward to OurSpace's future. "It's a million dollar playground, but it's priceless," she said.