Wisconsin Avenue Park Will Be Area’s First With Universal Access
First in southeastern Wisconsin where everything full accessible for those with disabilities.
The “universal park,” as it’s being called, will be the first entirely accessible park in southeastern Wisconsin, according to Milwaukee County Parks. The project aims to make everything in the park accessible to people with disabilities; from “ball diamonds to playgrounds to nature trails,” said Guy Smith, executive director of parks.
“I think the pandemic really opened all of our eyes to what isn’t accessible and what isn’t available,” said Damian Buchman, founder and CEO of The Ability Center. When everything was shut down and public spaces, like parks, were all that was left, people with disabilities, who are already often more isolated, found themselves even more so, he said. “Our mission is to provide people impacted by disabilities with daily opportunities to be fit, active, healthy and play,” Buchman said.
The plan for Wisconsin Avenue Park, 10300 W. Wisconsin Ave., entails building out a universally accessible playground, field, walking trail, play pockets, fitness stations, a challenge course and clubhouse.
The Ability Center has already invested $30,000 into the project, conducting a tree survey and a topographical survey; and Kahler Slater has already designed a new park clubhouse. The total project cost is estimated at approximately $7 million. The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee has already committed to fundraising $500,000 toward the project cost. The rest is being fundraised from other private donors and foundations. The project comes at zero cost to Milwaukee County.
Leila Wright, vice president of mission advancement for YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, said the universal field in Wauwatosa will increase access to playfields for families and people impacted by disabilities in the county. She said that not everyone is able to make it to the areas that currently offer programming. “Now, my kids can play sports in our local community… but in the adaptive sports world that just isn’t possible,” she said. “There’s just not enough resources in communities.”
The second phase will see an accessible half-mile meandering path cut through the woods in the park. The tree survey allows the path to be cut without harming healthy trees. A challenge course designed for people of all abilities, with obstacles of varying difficulty, will be constructed during this phase, as well.
UPDATE: This story was updated to reflect that the YMCA has committed $500,000 to the project, which it affirmed to Urban Milwaukee. An earlier report from Milwaukee County Parks indicated the YMCA had committed to fundraising $1 million toward the project.
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