After Making Repairs, North Little Rock To Open Special Needs Playground

Sep 13, 2017

North Little Rock's new One Heart Playground, which is to open with a ceremony Thursday.
Credit Jeff Caplinger / City of North Little Rock

A specially designed playground for children with varying degrees of physical impairments is to open Thursday at North Little Rock’s Burns Park. The One Heart Playground will also accommodate adults with disabilities who want to be with children as they play.

A grand opening is set for 2 p.m. at the playground, which is near the Funland Amusement Park and the rocket slide. But the cost of the project ended up being more than had been originally anticipated.

A ceremony marking its opening was to be held on June 13, but sinkholes developed underneath the playground before that could happen. It took a few months to repair, with the overall cost going from $250,000 to about $325,000, says Parks and Recreation Director Terry Hartwick.

The inspiration for building the special needs playground, he says, was meeting with a three-year-old girl who, because of health issues, wasn’t able to play at regular playgrounds. Emma Wasson has a congenital heart defect and Turner syndrome. Hartwick says she can hear, but can’t walk or talk, so he wanted to create an all-inclusive playground.

A heart on the rubber surface of the One Heart Playground in North Little Rock.
Credit Jeff Caplinger / City of North Little Rock

"With Emma, we started thinking, started raising money, and as you know now, we’re about to have something that we’re very proud of in North Little Rock," he said. "The mayor, the city council, our whole city has gotten behind it, plus lots and lots of people who donated to it. And this will be a park that all people can get involved with."

Initial construction was covered by the private donations, though the city is absorbing the cost of making repairs from the sinkholes.

Hartwick says more such playgrounds are being built nationwide to ensure that a disability or impairment don't keep a child from enjoying the standard joys of being young. The playground features a rubber surface and the typical things found in playgrounds, but modified so that all kids can enjoy them.

"Most of the rides are built so that you can get on it with a wheelchair, or if you need help, it’s a design where you have lots of things that… even the slide is not a normal slide, it has rollers on it that you can slide down on it," Hartwick said. "It’s not the normal park, it’s the park that would suit people from tiny to old."