The Burlington County Special Services School District will be able to renovate the playground at its Westampton campus thanks to an agreement with the Burlington County Commissioners to help fund the project.
The county commissioners approved a cost-share agreement with the district that specifies the county will contribute $400,000 to the cost of renovating the school’s outdoor playground, which was one of the first in the county that was handicapped-accessible and barrier-free. The school district is expected to cover the remainder of the expected $700,000 project.
The playground is in need of a new play surface and equipment. It is used by Special Services students and is also open for the general public to use when school is not in session.
“Every child should have the opportunity to play and be a kid, and for decades the Special Services School playground has been a safe and welcoming space for children from across the county to interact and enjoy themselves,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell, the Board’s liaison to Special Services School District and Burlington County Institute of Technology. “One of the reasons our board is so careful with how we manage county taxpayer funds is to ensure we have money available for these kinds of important projects and improvements.”
The county funding for the project is expected to come from the Burlington County Open Space Trust Fund, which is dedicated to farmland and open space preservation, parks, trails and recreational improvements.
Burlington County Commissioner Allison Eckel, the board’s liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation, said the playground project was something the board felt strongly about.
“Our board has a responsibility to all of our residents and to help improve their lives,” said Eckel. “Inclusive playgrounds like this one will both assist Special Services School District and its students and preserve a destination for families from all over the county to visit and enjoy.”
Burlington County has become a state leader in developing accessible parks and trails, Eckel noted. Nearly every county park has accessible paths and trails and the playgrounds at Willingboro Lakes, Historic Smithville Park in Eastampton and Pennington Park in Delanco are all handicapped accessible.
“No child or family should feel left out because a park or school lacks accessible facilities,” Eckel said. “Our county parks are among the best in the nation, and we’ve made sure they are inclusive and accessible so everyone can enjoy them.”
State Senator Troy Singleton applauded the county for its actions, saying they set an example for other counties and local governments to follow.
“All children deserve a safe place to play, and inclusive playgrounds and parks provide recreational space that they can all enjoy without limitations,” said Senator Singleton. “I commend the commissioners for supporting this project and others the county has undertaken to make sure all residents have access to beautiful outdoor spaces and accessible playgrounds.”