Williamstown Rotary offers fun for all with handicap-accessible playground

The Mary Mazza Duffy Memorial Park playground is the only handicap-accessible park in Gloucester County, most southern in the state

Mary Mazza Duffy Memorial Park became home to the only handicap-accessible playground in Gloucester County, and the most southern in the state, earlier this month, according to Williamstown Sunrise Rotary Foundation member Don Kensey. After two years of fundraising, research and planning, the $150,000 play area is open to all children and families.

The plan to build a playground at the park began as an extension to the existing pavilion on site, also donated and built by Rotary, formerly known as the Williamstown Dinner Club at the time.

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“We thought, ‘what are these people doing in the pavilion when their kid is playing on the fields and they have a little one?’ They need a playground,” member Bert Rogers said.

What started as an $80,000 proposed project grew over the span of two years as the foundation for customizing the area to allow children of all abilities to play and enjoy. For example, while the mulch grounding for the playground was considered handicap accessible by state statute, the foundation wanted to go above and beyond to allow any child with physical or cognitive disabilities the opportunity to easily access the play area. Therefore, a portion of the area’s grounds is comprised of a Pour in Place rubber surfacing.

“It was always handicap accessible,” Kensey said. “The difference was between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.”

Additional features include specialty swings for those with disabilities, and a wheelchair ramp leading to a “sway fun” apparatus, allowing those with limited mobility to rock back and forth with friends.

“This playground goes to show we can do anything we put our minds to, and we did it,” member Vicky Beyerle said. “When this project began, we said, ‘if we’re going to do this, we need to finish it,’ and we did.”

The playground was a community effort, as member and non-member donations, fundraising efforts through comedy nights, golf outings, designer bag bingo events and more, as well as grants, funded the project in its entirety. The community assembled the Landscape Structures equipment, by General Recreation, in almost a day, which happened to be the coldest day of this year at the time.

The playground has attractions separated into two age-group sections for children ages 2 to 5 as well as 5 to 12. The colors of the playground, blue and yellow, reflect the logo colors of the Rotary Club.

“When we started this club, we said we would set aside 25 percent of any money we raised to go back into long-term projects, such as this,” member Leonard Schwartz said. “The day we [assembled the playground], there was a family who came out with a handicapped boy and they were thrilled.”

A grand-opening celebration is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 22, at 1 p.m., featuring kid activities, a ribbon-cutting and a chance for families and communities to see what their donations were able to create. Additionally, the community event offers an opportunity for residents to learn and see what the Rotary is all about.

The playground is located at 623 Corkery Lane, Williamstown. To learn more about the Williamstown Sunrise Rotary Club, visit www.williamstownsunriserotary.org. Residents are welcome to attend the Rotary’s weekly meetings every Wednesday, held at the Free Public Library of Monroe Township at 7:30 a.m.

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