A new Dream Playground that’s accessible to children of all abilities will open Sunday in Council Bluffs.
The program will begin at 2:30 p.m., with the ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m. The “ribbon” will be a paper chain made by area children.
“We deeply appreciate the tremendous support from volunteers, businesses and foundations from all around the area,” said Lynne Branigan, a member of the project’s steering committee. “This brings to a conclusion two years of planning and work to rebuild the Dream Playground in honor of its 25th anniversary.”
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Barry Cleaveland, a steering committee member who headed the fundraising effort, said, “This playground was built by the community and for the community.”
He estimated the combined value of cash donations, in-kind services and volunteer hours at more than a $1.3 million.
At 18,000 square feet, organizers say the Dream Playground is Iowa’s largest public playground that complies with Americans With Disabilities Act access guidelines.
It provides children of all abilities the opportunity to play in a safe and accessible place, said Justin Schultz, another steering committee member.
The playground is near the swimming beach and Shelter No. 6 at Lake Manawa State Park .
The grand opening celebration will include a food truck and a silent auction for building materials and tools left over from construction. Proceeds will go toward the endowment fund for future maintenance of the playground, which will be managed by Friends of Lake Manawa through the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation.
“The Dream Playground Re-Imagined has finally become a reality that will be enjoyed by our children, grandchildren, and future generations to come,” Branigan said.
The initial Dream Playground, which was not ADA-compliant, was built by some 2,000 volunteers during a rainy three-day period in 1993.
It was called the Dream Playground because its features were initially conceptualized by elementary students. The students’ ideas were then forwarded to Play By Design in Ithaca, New York, to create park equipment.
The same process was repeated in March 2017, when students from all of the elementary schools in the Council Bluffs, Lewis Central and St. Albert districts were asked to redesign the park .
The students’ ideas — some 1,700 of them — were evaluated and then forwarded to the same firm that designed the original Dream Playground in 1993.