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Friday, July 20, 2018, 9:06 p.m.

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Fairy-tale fun

All-inclusive Mills Park is nearly open

By Sam Pierce

This article was published July 8, 2018 at 12:00 a.m.

bryant-parks-and-recreation-director-chris-treat-left-and-bryant-mayor-jill-dabbs-stand-in-front-of-a-piece-of-the-new-playground-equipment-at-mills-park-in-bryant-the-all-inclusive-park-is-expected-to-officially-open-later-this-month

Bryant Parks and Recreation Director Chris Treat, left, and Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs stand in front of a piece of the new playground equipment at Mills Park in Bryant. The all-inclusive park is expected to officially open later this month.

Little knights and princesses of the Bryant and Saline County area will soon have a new place to explore.

The all-inclusive playground at Mills Park in Bryant, which is scheduled to be open by mid-July, will feature a climbable dragon, a drawbridge ramp and other castle-themed attractions. The playground was originally set to open by the beginning of the summer, but rain and other delays have pushed back the date.

“We are real excited to get it open,” Bryant Parks and Recreation director Chris Treat said, “especially with a lot of the summer left over. [We are ] hopeful to have it done before the summer ends.”

Treat said that with all the rain the Bryant area got in February, the construction was put behind.

“We will be glad to get [the playground] open,” Treat said, “so the kids will have plenty of time left in the summer to come and play.”

The city of Bryant received a $250,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for the Mills Park Inclusive Playground Project. The grant, along with the $300,000 the city is putting in, was used to build an all-inclusive playground and walking trail.

The entire park will cost $750,000.

“This park is accessible to everyone,” Treat said. “One of the misconceptions that I have seen on social media is that this park is only for children or adults with disabilities, and that’s not true.

“This park is designed so that children with disabilities and without disabilities can play together and maybe break down some of those barriers so that it is accessible for both.”

Treat said that inclusivity really is the genius part of the design — “so that all kinds of children can play together without the usual barriers.”

He said once the park opens, the pavilion will be available for rentals and reservations.

“The playground is loved by the people of Bryant,” Treat said. “We wanted to completely renovate it but also keep the trees and shade. It doesn’t feel like a brand-new playground.”

Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs said the new castle theme fits in perfectly with the wooded area of Mills Park. She said she believes this will be a park that people from all over the state will want to visit.

“The people who were really behind this effort for an inclusive park were really thoughtful and put a lot of care into what it is going to look like,” Treat said.

The new park will also feature new sidewalks, new parking spaces and a new bathroom. He said the bathroom was designed with families with children with disabilities in mind. He said the changing tables are large and can hold an adult child.

“This is really large playground equipment, but the designers did a great job of making sure it doesn’t overwhelm the space,” Treat said. “Three smaller pieces are coming in Phase II, and we are raising the funds for that right now.

“As soon as we raise the funds, we will put those there.”

He said the missing pieces will not cause any problems or present dangers.

“They have designed it in such a way that you’ll be able to tell where the equipment is going to go. … It won’t look like a construction site,” Treat said.

The three additional pieces include a zip line, a Merry-Go-All and a Rock N Raft. Treat said those additions will be accessible for both able-bodied children and those with disabilities.

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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