On April 30, Cambridge City Officials, employees, friends, and neighbors gathered for a special dedication ceremony for the Louis A. DePasquale Universal Design Playground.
The 30,000 square foot play area, which opened at Danehy Park in December 2021, is the first in Cambridge to fully incorporate Universal Design (UD) – the concept that all parts should be as usable as possible, without changes, by everyone. In addition to physical accessibility, UD takes sensory, cognitive, and emotional abilities into consideration to create an environment that is welcoming to all people to the greatest extent possible.
The UD playground will be dedicated in honor of Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, who will be retiring after 45 years of service.
The park was designed for children, caregivers, and visitors of all ages and abilities to play, experience and enjoy:
- The Swing Zone, Spin Zone and Climbing Slope encourage independent and interactive play.
- The Junior Play area features a train-shaped play structure with climbing features and a double slide.
- The Senior Play area includes a tower, sliding bars, and a slide. People can access the tower by walking across an elevated bridge, climbing up a ladder, or using sliding bars. Visitors can also use a talk-tube network to send messages to different parts of the structure.
- Slides have horizontal tubing – a sensory feature that people can feel and hear when sliding.
- The Sensory Walk Zone features a pathway designed with bands of crushed stone, concrete, and granite pavers. Whether or not someone uses a mobility device, they experience tactile and auditory responses from the changing textures. Plantings on either side of the pathway engage the senses of smell, sight, and touch.
- A music area at the end of the Sensory Walk Zone invites visitors to play rain and chime sounds. Plantings on either side of the pathway engage the senses of smell, sight, and touch.
- The “Sensory Hilltop” is reached through an accessible, labyrinth-style pathway. The Hilltop’s wooden features, designed by Cambridge artist Mitch Ryerson, are constructed from Black Locust wood, which is resistant to rot and splintering. The “Sensory Hilltop” includes log steppers, a wooden marimba where visitors can experiment with sound, and benches with 3D animal-shapes that invite tactile exploration. During spring and summer, a “Scentsation” vine will provide shade and the smell of honeysuckle.
- “Pipe Dreams” is an art-play sculpture that celebrates the industrial legacy of Danehy Park. The tunnel-shaped form, designed by middle and high school students at NuVu Studio in Central Square, has smooth wooden planks that curve, window features, and handholds that invite climbing.
- Colorful paintings by Dominic Michael Killiany, a prolific local artist with autism, enliven the playground’s walls and the interior of a play structure.
- The Splash Pad will provide waterplay fun in the summer months. It includes junior and senior play features and seating for observers.
- Poured in Place (PIP) Rubber Surfacing covers the ground between play structures, the Swing and Spin Zones, the Climbing Slope, and the Sensory Hilltop, creating a cushioned, non-slip surface that provides protection from falls and is smooth for people who use mobility devices.
In addition to inclusive play features, sustainability was a priority in design. Natural and recycled materials were incorporated as much as possible, and over 60 new trees were planted across the play area. The “Sensory Hilltop’s” Black Locust wood was harvested from trees removed during the City’s Glacken Slope Restoration Project.
The UD Playground was designed by the firm Weston & Sampson Design Studio. A Focus Group, comprised of Cambridge parents, abutters, local educators, and City staff, worked closely with the design team to solicit community feedback and develop park concepts. www.cambridgema.gov/UDPlayground.
Pictured: Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale, with his family: daughter, Kristen, wife, Cheryl, and son, Louis at the unveiling of the playground sign. During the special ceremony, several friends and City officials spoke about City Manager DePasquale’s lifelong commitment to the City, born and raised in Cambridge, in raising a family, serving as Little League Coach, and working for the City of Cambridge.