The dream of an all-inclusive playground with an adjoining music park become a reality at A Park Above, the first inclusive playground in New Mexico. The six-acre park accomplished the goal of creating a space where all children and families can come together through the gift of play. A diverse environment with meaningful equipment, calming spaces, and opportunities for physical activity help meet the interests of all users.
A Technical Advisory Committee (the TAC team), including parents, teachers, doctors, people with and without disabilities, children, and physical therapists, were involved in the design of the unique space. The TAC team wanted to ensure that there was a lot of sensory stimulation, and a space that allows children to be as physically active as they want, while also providing opportunities for those who may prefer more relaxing experiences. Additionally, it was important to expand the typical sounds in the playground by creating a music park as part of the environment. Making music is now something all kids can experience as they explore rich, deep tones, and sparkling high notes in this creative play space. The music park, one of many activities in the park, includes a 6-piece ensemble installed under a shade structure, to help combat the heat throughout the year.
What was originally conceived as a neighborhood park has become a regional park and a viable destination as families travel from as far as Colorado to visit the park regularly. The total park project budget was over $2 million and was the result of many public and private donors contributing to the success. Local non-profit organizations, hospital grants, park impact fees, and in-kind donations helped provide funding and labor for the park project.
A Park Above opened in March 2016, and today an average of 600 people reportedly visit the park during the week while over 1,000 visit during the weekend. The city has established ambassadors that serve as liaisons among visitors, community members, and the Rio Rancho Department of Parks and Recreation.
"A Park Above has become a new design standard that we are trying to achieve, at least in part if not whole, at our older, existing parks as we work to renovate them to meet the current needs of our community. This park and the various sensory experiences that children can have here, has opened up a new world of play and growth for many who could not play at our other parks, as well as the parents, friends, and other family members that share the experience with them. While other playgrounds in the city may have a few bells or chimes built into the playground equipment, the symphony of sound that children and families can make at A Park Above is unique, and makes the "music park" area of the facility a favorite place to socialize and play." - Dyane Sonier, Resource Development Manager, City of Rio Rancho NM