It’s a magic moment for the children of Hamilton, as the city’s first fully accessible playground officially opens in Claudelands Park at 5pm tomorrow (Friday 1 December).
The new playground was built in collaboration with Hamilton City Council and Magical Bridge Trust; a charitable trust started by passionate members of the disability community.
The Trust’s mission is to create a fully inclusive playground that removes barriers for individuals and families with physical or neurological disabilities, and is designed to include everyone, no matter their age or ability.
Mayor Paula Southgate said that the project “is part of Council’s commitment to making a more accessible city, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and is testament to what can be achieved when we partner with the communities we serve. I wish to thank the team at Magical Bridge Trust, and all those involved in bringing this magic vision to life.”
Every element of the Magical Bridge Playground considers universal accessibility. Chair of Magical Bridge Trust, Peter van Vroonhoven, said it’s about giving everyone the chance to play.
“One in four New Zealanders have a disability of some kind, but only 10% of those have visible disabilities. We wanted to create a playground that includes everyone – wheelchair users, those with hearing and vision impairments, the neuro-diverse community, and more.”
The 8000m2 fenced playground includes 3500m2 of themed zones, including a slide zone, balance and bounce zone, swing zone and spin zone, as well as retreat huts, waterplay, a playhouse and stage.
The design also includes shade, seating and drinking fountains. Fundraising is underway for phase two of the playground, which will add more sensory features, accessible toilets, a more inclusive flying fox, fitness equipment, a sensory climbing dome and New Zealand’s first Musical Laser Harp.
Mayor Southgate said “I am immensely proud that Hamilton Kirikiriroa is now home to the first of its kind, fully inclusive playground in New Zealand; one that the whole community of all ages and abilities, can enjoy together without boundaries. I hope this sets the benchmark for all new playgrounds throughout New Zealand.”
“Hamilton is living up to its reputation as city of the future, establishing the nation’s initial Changing Places bathroom, which provides adequate public changing rooms for people with disabilities, and now the first fully inclusive playground in New Zealand.”
The formal opening will take place at the playground at 5pm on Friday 1 December. After that, it’s time to play!
Magical Bridge Trust was formed by passionate members of Hamilton’s disability community, and is a licensed partner of Magical Bridge Foundation USA, a non-profit that advocates for, designs and builds playgrounds and parks for children and adults of all ages, abilities, and sizes.
Inspired by this kaupapa, the Magical Bridge Trust New Zealand was formed. In 2022, they partnered with Council to design and build the first international Magical Bridge Playground.
Stage one was funded through a combination of community grants, sponsorship and in-kind donations as well as $1.4 million from Council’s existing renewals budget.