Nearly two years after the planning process for its redevelopment went public, city officials last week unveiled a new playground and reading garden at Northam Park.

Amid evening temperatures that hovered near 90 degrees, the area just outside Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch was bustling with activity July 19.

The heat didn't seem to matter to the children who climbed and crawled throughout the park's new playground or who blew bubbles at a newly created reading garden nearby.

And while children played, a number of parents voiced their approval.

"I love it," said Vivian Schueller of Upper Arlington, whose 4- and 1-year-old children tried out playground features. "I like that it's closer to this area (by the library), and I like that there's a little-kids playground and a big-kids playground. There are more activities than before."

What started as a plan presented in August 2015 to bring $14 million in upgrades to the park, including drainage work and the relocation of clay tennis courts, was scaled back to a "first-phase" project to reconstruct Tremont Pool, build a new playground and install a reading garden.

The approximately $4.152 million pool was opened June 10.

After heavy storms washed out the planned July 12 unveiling of the $1.4 million playground and reading garden, they were officially opened July 19.

Upper Arlington Capital Projects Manager Alan McKnight said the new playground is designed to provide a range of recreation options for children of varying ages.

"The younger area has wood mulch and nature elements," he said. "As you work your way south, the equipment becomes a little more challenging.

"There's a rubberized surface under some of the bigger elements. That's a safety surface so when you do take a tumble, it absorbs that impact."

Although not fully accessible to children with physical disabilities, McKnight said, the playground was designed with those issues in mind. He noted the rubberized surface and a ramp leading to the larger of two treehouses, as well as a nature hunt that encourages guests to find animal designs throughout the playground, were incorporated into the design to help ensure children of all levels of ability could find places to play and interact with others.

Accessibility was a recurrent concern of some who opposed the park's redevelopment, in addition to questions about the costs of the work and the use of a portion of voter-approved income taxes to fund it.

But Kyle Evans, whose 3-year-old son, Austin, has spina bifida and often uses a wheelchair, said designers did a good job of creating a play space for those with physical limitations.

"(Austin) loved it," Evans said. "He was in a place where he was able to be free and go play and not be in a specific spot.

"We have a lot of places in Columbus where he can do that, but in Upper Arlington, there were not a lot of spots where he could do that. Mulch is a really tough thing to navigate a wheelchair through, but my son was able to wheel up the rubberized surface to the big treehouse by himself."

Evans estimated the park is about 60 percent accessible to those with disabilities.

"To have a truly, fully accessible playground is a hard thing to do, but I think they did a good job," he said. "My son was everywhere, with the exception of the mulch.

"It's fun to know that playground is a place for him to go and be around other kids."

As for the reading garden, McKnight noted it includes a table and seating for people of all ages to relax or enjoy books from the library.

The area also features three sculptures created by the late Alfred Tibor.

"We're just excited about the project," McKnight said. "We're happy we got it open and look forward to the community enjoying it for a lot of years to come."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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