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County funds more all-inclusive playgrounds

SAN JOSE – Children and adults with physical or cognitive disabilities will soon have additional options for inclusive and accessible playgrounds throughout Santa Clara County with support from the County. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors asked Administration to provide options for yet another one-time matching grant for the County’s All-Inclusive Playground Grant (AIPG) program. County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Cindy Chavez proposed the grant; this is the third such proposal from Simitian and Chavez.

The Supervisors are seeking to revive the County’s All-Inclusive Playground Grant (AIPG) program with $10 million more in matching grants to local jurisdictions and nonprofits, including, but not limited to cities, school districts, and other agencies willing to build all-inclusive playgrounds in their communities. Up to $2 million will be available for projects in each of the County’s five supervisorial districts.

“Playgrounds are important places for recreation and community building,” said Simitian. “They can also be therapeutic for children with disabilities, who, like all children, benefit from the developmental milestones experienced through playing. What’s more, all-inclusive playgrounds promote understanding between neighbors with and without disabilities as they’re places everyone can enjoy and play.”

Prior to 2017, the County contributed twice on an ad hoc basis to efforts by cities and community groups to build all-inclusive playgrounds in San Jose (Rotary PlayGarden) and Palo Alto (Magical Bridge). Because of how scarce these playgrounds were, families — with and also without children with disabilities — drove from throughout the area to enjoy them. The two parks quickly proved so popular that overcrowding became an issue.

Recognizing the high demand and regional significance of all-inclusive playgrounds, in 2017, at the urging of Simitian and Chavez, the Board approved $10 million in matching funds (up to $2 million in every supervisorial district) to catalyze the construction of all-inclusive playgrounds throughout the County. The Board subsequently allocated an additional $10 million in matching funds in 2018. In total, the County has provided matching grants for 24 projects thus far, many of which are already open to the public.

“This action builds on our County’s demonstrated commitment to expand access to people with disabilities and aligns with the mission of our County’s Office of Disability Affairs,” said Chavez. “Although previous rounds of funding for the AIPG program have generated significant progress, there is still more the County can and should do.”

Said Simitian, “As hoped, the AIPG program increased awareness of the need for inclusive playgrounds, and spurred local communities to act that otherwise couldn’t afford to develop these playgrounds without financial assistance. But the demand is still there — my office continues to field inquiries from advocates and jurisdictions interested in County support for new all-inclusive playgrounds. The program has a proven track record of projects throughout the region; the need and enthusiasm for these parks is undeniable. County funding has been just the catalyst we hoped it would be; leveraging funds from other sources, getting folks to think in new ways about public spaces.”