Common Ground

Fort Worth Dream Park will allow children with all abilities to interact and play side-by-side.

When Fort Worth Dream Park Board President Rachael Churchill took her 3-year-old son, Cash, to a playground in Port Washington, Wis., in the summer of 2013, a vision came to her. The beautiful space was unlike any she’d seen before, with a giant pirate ship, lighthouse and elaborate ramping system.

“When we pulled up, I was in awe. It was called Possibility Playground,” Churchill says. Looking around, she saw a sign that explained that the destination was a fully-accessible, all-inclusive spot for able bodied and children with disabilities to play together. In addition to all the features seen at most playgrounds, this one had therapeutic swings, sensory boards, musical and educational components.

“It was such an incredible concept. I knew this would be a wonderful addition to the Fort Worth community,” Churchill says. She set into action a plan to do just that. The 20,000-square-foot playground will meet and exceed ADA accessibility guidelines and will be located in Trinity Park in the spot of the current playground.

Fort Worth ISD reports that nearly 8 percent of children currently enrolled have developmental or intellectual disabilities, which equates to around 6,400 students. With the limited areas in Fort Worth for these children to play, they are missing out on the fundamental benefits of play, such as improvements in mental, physical and social development.

Sandy Mesch, Fort Worth Dream Park co-founder, says they have done plenty of research. “We visited many playgrounds. Frisco has Hope Park. There’s Fort Wildflower in Flower Mound and Casey’s Clubhouse in Grapevine. We have nothing quite like this in Fort Worth. We are really wanting to go above and beyond,” Mesch says.

Fort Worth Dream Park fundraisers have only reached about 10 percent of the goal. “Although we have been working on this project for quite some time, we hadn’t been able to get in front of the city until last week,” Churchill says.

The organization hopes to break ground on the park in the spring of 2016 with a late summer/early fall opening. “We can’t build between March and May because of Mayfest. It [the park’s opening] will also depend on the success of fundraising,” says Corrie Watson, Fort Worth Dream Park co-founder.

Watson shares why she believes the Dream Park is so important for Fort Worth. “Children of all abilities should be able to play side-by-side without limiting their imaginations. My mother was in a wheelchair. So parents with mobility issues will also benefit from the Dream Park and will be able to interact with their kids at the playground.”

Dream Park special features will include a merry-go-round with back support, roller slide, transfer stations for children in wheel chairs, sensory panels, musical instruments such as drums and chimes, a Sway Fun Swing and much more. “We hope to have a cozy cocoon, which is a special spot where children with autism can go if the playground suddenly gets too overwhelming for them,” Churchill says.

If you are looking for a way to support the Fort Worth Dream Park, visit dreamparkfw.org.