A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Lehigh Park: Waiting for special playground

Written November 20th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Lehigh Park on Nov. 17, 2023: The old playground was still there but will be replaced.

One day last week I rode the bike to Albany’s Lehigh Neighborhood. The point was to follow up on a story last May about the planned replacement of the playground at Lehigh Park.

Well, the old playground was still there. I expected this because it was only last month that the city council approved a change in the plan.

More about that change in a minute. But first, join me in taking another look around this very nice park:

Albany Parks and Recreation plans to replace the Lehigh Park playground with one specially designed and suited for children with a range of disabilities. The new equipment is described as “sensory friendly.”

The orginal plan last spring was to cover the playground surface with “engineered wood fiber,” which basically amounts to a thick layer of wood chips.

But as Parks and Recreation Director Kim Lyddane explained to the council in October, the department got feedback that this surface would not work “due to the sensory experience.”

Now the playground surface will be made up of 5,280 square feet of  “Forever Lawn Playground Grass Ultra.” I looked it up, and essentially this is artificial grass that is antistatic and antimicrobial.

On its website, the company making the product has a video showing how this surface enables a couple of boys, two brothers who were born deaf, to play there. Because the surface generates no static, it does not fry the electronics of the implants that enable the boys to hear.

Besides the different surface, the project still calls for two traditional swings plus one that accommodates a caregiver and a child; a “group spinner” that can be used by children using walkers or wheelchairs; sensory panels with sound, music, tactile activities and color; and a communication panel for children who have trouble with speech.

On Oct. 25, the council approved an exemption from competitive bidding to purchase the playground equipment, surface material and installation, from Ross Recreation Equipment through National Purchasing Partners, for $236,767. (The original plan was to have cost no more than $200,000.)

The city will pay for the purchase with funds from the Community Development Block Grant program and the park capital improvement fund.

Originally, the new playground was to be installed this summer and fall. But now that we’re in November, chances are parents hoping to take their children to this new playground will have to wait till 2024. (hh)

Postscript: Kim Lyddane, the parks director, plans to talk to the council about this project again on Nov. 29. In an email after this story appeared, she wrote: “The installation for the playground will be done late summer/early fall of 2024.  I plan to do a follow-up with the community once the plans and order are all finalized to let them know that we heard their feedback and that several elements of the original design have been changed in order to provide a better experience! (Adding a small fence around the playground to help with elopement, looking to add sand to the volleyball pit to help with another sensory offering, and the big one…the surface replacement).”

6 responses to “Lehigh Park: Waiting for special playground”

  1. Andrea S says:

    This is great! Thank you for sharing this story. I have one wording correction, though. This park is for children of all abilities (not all disabilities). Another apt description would be an inclusive park. I have twins who are now 16, but ten years ago they would have both loved this — both the twin in a wheelchair and the twin who would have been running all over the place. Various abilities. Wonderful addition for Albany.

  2. Patricia Eich says:

    Six years ago when our daughter was visiting Oregon from Texas we took her 2 year old son to a similar playground in Redmond. It was wonderful. As Andrea says, these are for all children and a lot of fun. Our grandson loved it.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    Can’t the new equipment be put in IN ADDITION to the old equipment? Why get rid of the old? That just seems to be a waste of money.

  4. KinderParkNeighbor says:

    They shouldn’t be upgrading parks if they won’t spend money to clean them. My park is full of garbage and homeless people.

  5. Cap B. says:

    Thanks for visiting all the parks for us, your readers, and taking pictures and videos of them.

  6. Steph Newton says:

    The “forever lawn” isn’t the final plan. Just FYI. There are concerns of this breaking down into microplastics.


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