Groundbreaking set for All-Abilities Playground in O’Fallon

Lynn Venhaus

Wed, June 21, 2023 at 2:10 PM CDT·4 min read

Children should be able to enjoy the All-Abilities Playground by mid- to late-August in the O’Fallon Community Park. Meanwhile, volunteers can still sign up to help, and donations are being accepted too.

A ground-breaking ceremony is set for Friday, June 23, at 10 a.m. at the site of the new ADA-accessible playground, which is on the north side, just west of the Log Cabin, at the park located at 401 E. Fifth St.

Children of all ages and abilities will be able to play there. The previous aging playground is being removed.

“There’s a lot to do for kids on that playground,” said Andrew Dallner, director of the O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department.

He said an inclusive playground has been a growing movement in recent years, for it removes barriers for kids who haven’t been able to enjoy those outside activities. They can be active and play in a welcoming environment, which is important for social connections.

An all-abilities playground and pool improvements were the two top priority rankings in the Build O’Fallon Trust Fund surveys, he said. The playground budget was $1 million.

Grading has been completed in the northwest corner. Dallner said staff will join a crew from Focal Point (the playground company) to begin installing the foundation pieces on Monday, June 26.

“It will take several weeks for us to install the posts and decking for the playground. Once that process is complete, we will organize a volunteer effort to begin installation of the other components of the project such as railing, swings, slides, et cetera,” Dallner said.

Building will be a six-to-eight-week process, Dallner estimated. He said volunteers will likely be needed around July 10.

“There’s a lot of different components for people to help with, if you want to be a part of it,” he said.

To date, Dallner estimated 40 to 50 people have volunteered to help build. Others who would like to can register on the website.

Most of the costs are being taken care of through the Build O’Fallon Trust Fund. But the city opened it up for outside contributions of time and money, to add features and provide needed manpower.

Community service organizations and local businesses have donated to the project. The Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge #198 gave $25,000 to secure naming rights. The O’Fallon Police Department has been heavily involved in supporting the Special Olympics over the years.

“We hope that children from the area will learn that those who may not look, walk, or speak like them can still laugh and have fun like them when given the opportunity,” their statement read.

Community Park Improvements

Among other ambitious improvements are the new swimming pool and community center upgrades. The park’s master plan includes replacing the pool, which was built in 1959, adding space for community gatherings, and more hiking and biking trails.

The new pool is expected to be ready in two years. In addition to addressing physical issues, it must be ADA compliant, and restroom and locker room upgrades will take place. The department is likely moving from the Katy Cavins Community Center into new office space at the pool complex.

The pool drawings are expected to be revealed in August.

The Community Park is one of the heaviest used among the city’s 11 parks. New lighted walking paths will wind through the park, providing more safety for walkers. A series of trail improvements for bicycle usage will be implemented, and a 10-foot-wide multi-use path around the park is planned.

To replace the 97-year-old Katy Cavins Community Center, the department has applied for a $2.8 million park and recreational facility construction grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The city would be committed to match 25% of it. The money would fund the demolition of the old building and to construct a new facility in its place.

Dallner said they are going to wait until the outcome of the grant is known before plans are finalized, and if that happens, he projects a design could be decided in November or December. Moving forward, the pool and the center work could be taking place at the same time, he said.

A Multi-Use Facility

An evaluation of conditions at the Katy Cavins Center determined a complete overhaul was needed to address life-safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, building code related items, and other problems.

Dallner said the amount of work needed for repairs is cost-prohibitive, and it may be wiser to build a new one rather than fix the current one.

“It got really pricey really quickly,” he said.

Renovations and flooding work was estimated between $2,567,919 and $2,838,226 and an elevator would be an additional $926,636 to $1,024,177.

A new building is estimated to cost $5 million.

One of the suggestions is to replace multi-purpose space with a gym to provide much needed indoor athletic space for youth programming. With the same square footage, they could still rent the facility for birthday parties, trivia nights and other events, the report said.