Flat play surfaces connect to existing sidewalks at Ella Mae Power Park’s new inclusive playground to help those with mobility challenges get around easier.

Flat play surfaces connect to existing sidewalks at Ella Mae Power Park’s new inclusive playground to help those with mobility challenges get around easier.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Novi unveils new inclusive playground at Ella Mae Power Park

By: Jonathan Shead | Novi Note | Published August 26, 2021

 The park’s inclusive playground features a We-Go swing, which allows people with a mobility device to access and enjoy the swing with family or friends.

The park’s inclusive playground features a We-Go swing, which allows people with a mobility device to access and enjoy the swing with family or friends.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Mobility ramps wind through the playscape equipment so that wheelchair users can play on the playscape towers.

Mobility ramps wind through the playscape equipment so that wheelchair users can play on the playscape towers.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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NOVI — A new inclusive playground built by the city at Ella Mae Power Park has something for everyone, Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Muck believes, including seniors and those who have physical or cognitive disabilities.

The playground redesign and redevelopment came out of the City Council’s initiative to create a Special Outreach Services Program that aimed to look at how the city could provide and deliver additional support services to residents who have accessibility challenges.

“An immediate item we identified was replacing the existing playground and bringing it up to 100% inclusive design,” Muck said. “It came about very quickly, from March to opening it in July.”

City Council budgeted $385,000 from the city’s general fund to make the playground a more equitable space.

The benefits of the new playground for those with special accommodations are plenty, Novi Community School District Special Education Director Shailee Patel said.

“It allows everyone to participate. It gives all levels of abilities the same equal access to a playground,” she said, adding that inclusive playgrounds have been built at Village Oaks and Parkview elementary schools. “It does not segregate a group of those kids with the general education kids, because sometimes that’s the narrative there is. It allows our students to feel that they’re able to play and be with their own peers, and not have to play separately.”

Adaptations to the physical surface and playscapes at the playground make the accessibility benefits for her special education students that much greater. The We-Go swing is a big hit among the playground equipment.

“The biggest comment we get is about the We-Go swing, which allows wheelchair users to ride on the swing with their friends, both in wheelchairs or not,” Muck said. “The nice thing about that is it’s just not for wheelchair users. We have elderly parents and grandparents who come down to watch their kids play. They can easily get onto that swing with a walker or other mobility device and will be able to swing with the kids.”

The addition of sensory play features, like musical bells and other tactile equipment, is another big upgrade.

“There’s a lot of sensory play features. I know we always think about disability, and you immediately go to the wheelchair, but the other thing we built this in mind with was kids with sensory or tactile needs. That’s why there’s noise elements, there’s spinning balls and touch points, for kids who are really more engrossed in the tactile senses rather than climbing and jumping,” Muck said.

“It’s a great location in the center of Novi. The safety surfacing makes it easy for everyone to use it. I really think we’ve hit all of our marks with this one,” Muck said.

Safety and supervision are still necessary concerns to have at the park, Patel said, but it’s important to strike a balance and not be overbearing.

“Our goal is to allow them to engage as much as possible with peers,” she said. “You don’t want to be the one that the spotlight is on just because you are using a special swing that everybody else isn’t. We’ve done really great as a district to tear those barriers down.”

Patel believes the new inclusive playground will help bring the community together and model the acceptance of everyone.

“I think the partnership that we’re modeling for our community is that we can take all populations and go to an outdoor facility and everyone can participate to play. I think that is the biggest benefit of this, the modeling that we provide to students, to adults, to the community, is that you can have people with various differences all come together and have the same end goal, which is to grow, have a healthy lifestyle, play, engage and be part of the community.”

Alongside support from the school district, the city also received support from the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America.

The city’s new inclusive playground is just the start of the city’s plans under the Special Outreach Services Program. New outdoor exercise equipment will soon be making its way to Wildlife Woods Park, Muck said, which will also be accessible to all.

“Our council also talked significantly about the mental health benefits. We wanted to hit that, as well,” he said. “While the exercise equipment can be used by anyone 12 and older, we really think that’s going to be used a lot by our senior population.”

For more information, visit cityofnovi.org.

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