Nation’s first inclusive playground in Hamilton


Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, May 3, 2023

A sod-turning ceremony held at Claudelands Playground recently marked the countdown to the construction of the first Magical Bridge playground for New Zealand and more specifically, for Hamilton. The fully inclusive destination playground will provide a safe place to play for people of all physical capabilities and ages, as well as considering the needs of people with intellectual disabilities including autism and sensory, visual and hearing impairments.

The Magical Bridge trust, in partnership with Hamilton City Council, will kick off construction of a new all-inclusive playground at Claudelands Park, a short walk from the Hamilton City Centre from next week, Monday 8 May 2023.

The perfect location

Claudelands Park playground acts as the perfect location as it was already due for renewal and is well suited due to its existing facilities including restrooms, accessible car parks, picnic areas and shaded seating. The community park is also easily accessible by public transport and is located within a diverse community – surrounded by young and elderly residents. The existing mounding in the park can be utilised for the proposed concept. Construction will take place in two stages, with the first stage expected to take around eight months to complete.

Stage one of construction will see a playground with improved inclusivity built on the existing Claudelands Park playground footprint. Stage two will add several more play zones, alongside facilities such as toilets. Stage one is fully funded through a combination of community grants, sponsorship and in-kind donations as well as funding from the Council’s existing renewals budget.

A sod-turning ceremony was held at Claudelands Playground on Friday 28 April 2023 (Photo Supplied)

Universal support of the vision

Magical Bridge Trust CEO Peter Van Vroonhoven said the blessing, ground-breaking, and the start of construction of Hamilton’s Magical Bridge Playground is the culmination of almost four years of hard work.

“It has been a truly humbling experience to have such universal support for the Magical Bridge vision, and I cannot wait till members of our community, regardless of ability or age, can enjoy a playground, often for the first time,” he said. “The trust’s fundraising efforts so far means we can deliver an amazing and truly magical play experience. Fundraising is still ongoing to be able to deliver the final few pieces of equipment. We would like to thank all those who have helped us get to where we are today – the Council, many community organisations, and our countless supporters, funders, and suppliers.”

Councillor Kesh Naidoo-Rauf, Chair of the Community and Natural Environment Committee, said that the Magical Bridge Playground is an exciting addition to Claudelands Park and the wider community.

“One in four Hamiltonians identify as living with a disability – it is so important that we provide a safe and inclusive play space for people of all ages and abilities,” she said. “We are thrilled to be working with Peter and the Magical Bridge team to bring the country’s first fully accessible playground to our city, creating a more open and welcoming Hamilton.”

While these works take place, the nearby Parana Park playground and Fairfield Park playground provide a great alternative space for families to take their children.

How it started

In 2020, a group of like-minded, passionate, and experienced individuals from the Hamilton, New Zealand disability community were each following the social media pages of the Magical Bridge Foundation in the USA. Magical Bridge Foundation is a not-for-profit that advocates for, designs and builds playgrounds and parks for children and adults of all ages, abilities, and sizes.

Already connected personally, they joined together to discuss this innovative and inclusive playground design and investigate the possibility of a magical playground being built in their home community, Hamilton. This conversation was the beginning of the Magical Bridge Trust, New Zealand.

The playground will be the first publicly funded Magical Bridge Playground outside of the USA.

More about the playground

The 4000m2 proposed playground will have themed zones, including a slide zone, sensory zone, swing zone and spin zone. Hideaway huts, buddy benches, and gathering spots to play and relax will be fun play spaces.

The design will use specific colours and textures for pathways and zones, including a sensory garden full of interesting textured plants and surfaces, accessible water play and user amenities such as shade and drinking fountains.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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