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June 28, 2022

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Work on new Esther Short Park playground to start in June

Replacement play area expedited from late fall, to be fully inclusive

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
Atlas Shives, 2, of Vancouver, from left, joins his parents, Brendon and Lucia Shives, as they pass the Esther Short Park playground area Friday afternoon. Playground construction is scheduled to begin in June.
Atlas Shives, 2, of Vancouver, from left, joins his parents, Brendon and Lucia Shives, as they pass the Esther Short Park playground area Friday afternoon. Playground construction is scheduled to begin in June. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Washington’s oldest public square will soon welcome its new playground after a fire left it scorched and dangerous for children to use.

Esther Short Park’s purple and beige jungle gym was closed indefinitely in January after a fire destroyed the structure. Despite the early end to the playground’s life, its prearranged replacement was expedited from late 2022 to June to fill the void.

Areas near the west portion of Esther Short Park will be closed during construction, which is anticipated to be completed in the fall.

The new play area is a part of Project Play, a city-led initiative to incorporate at least one fully inclusive playground in each park district, said Melody Burton, Vancouver’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services marketing manager.

Vancouver’s most popular parks, Esther Short Park and Marshall Community Park, had worn equipment that needed rejuvenation, making them prime models for a radically inclusive transformation, she said. Harper’s Playground, a nonprofit focused on creating inclusive play areas, and AKS Engineering and Forestry designed the new models.

“Building inclusive playgrounds at these sites provides the best opportunities to create greater access to play for people of all abilities,” Burton said.

Black ornamental fencing and Victorian pickets and rails will be featured in the new playground — a reference to the location’s historic aesthetic. Climbing roses on trellises make a connection to the park’s rose gardens, and its new boulder scramble will look similar to the water feature at Propstra Square. The new adaptive equipment — a seesaw, merry-go-round, climbing set and swings — is made for all bodies.

According to conceptual designs, the new Esther Short playground is extended toward West Eighth Street to include some of the park’s mature trees in its layout, making the play area slightly larger than it was before. It cost about $800,000, using funds collected from developers during the Vancouver Waterfront Park project, Burton said.

Replacing old restrooms with new facilities — like those at the Waterfront — will cost an additional $1 million. It’s funded by a combination of Real Estate Excise Tax, park impact fees and donations.

Plans to establish new community parks are underway and in the early planning phase; once the projects progress, there will be a public engagement period to develop design concepts and, eventually, a master plan.

Vancouver’s partner, Harper’s Playground, introduced a vision to make the city’s parks inviting for people of all ages regardless of their physical abilities. Future playgrounds will now be shaped through an accessibility lens to make them available to people who use mobility aids, Burton said.

Roosevelt Elementary School and Hazel Dell’s future Ruth Bader Ginsburg Elementary School are also expected to have inclusive play areas designed by the nonprofit.

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