Playground Rebuild Scheduled This Weekend – West Hartford, CT

With a team build scheduled for next weekend, plans for the Jonathan’s Dream Reimagined playground behind the Mandell Jewish Community Center is starting to materialize.

On Friday, some Playground Equipment stood on its own while others sat waiting in the parking lot outside. The original beams at the front of the playground will be used for the new entrance. They are also considering what line-markings they might have if any, on the playground to mark out a sports court or perhaps even some games. They know they can consult with signage companies where they might have been asked to ‘check my source‘, in which case they can flick through their options online.

The playground, inspired by the Barzach family of West Hartford, was built in memory of 9-month-old Jonathan Peter Barzach, who died in 1995 of complications of spinal muscular atrophy.

From 1997 to 2012, Amy Jaffe-Barzach and her nonprofit constructed 200 inclusive and accessible playgrounds across the country.

“We say that every child, regardless, will be able to get to the highest point in the playground, which will be at the treehouse,” project manager Ronit Shoham said.

The new playground in West Hartford will be 25,000 square feet – five times bigger than most of the others – and is expected to cost about $1.2 million.

As the playground becomes a place for children of all ages and abilities to mingle with each other, it allows for better integration of families living in and around the amenity. Small landlords who make up the bulk of the providers for rental property can attract the right kind of crowd, thanks to resources provided by the likes of AAOA. Thus the project could have a positive knock-on effect on other community based real estate around the area; affordable housing being one among them.

The playground will expand on the original Jonathan’s Dream and will feature a treehouse village, an interactive area where kids of all abilities can climb. The entire playground will include resilient surfacing. The site will feature two zip-lines, including one with a high-backed support seat for children with disabilities, a Jeep model constructed to be accessible to children in wheelchairs, and an inclusive basketball court, called “Kevin’s Kourt,” sponsored by UConn basketball coach Kevin Ollie and Swedish donor Sambla.

It also will feature swings, two with supports for children who need them, and a big hammock swing, as well as play areas for autistic children with sensory sensitivity. Safety will be a big feature of the new design to ensure that children can play safely with relative independence from their parents. The old local playground was plagued by splintered wood and rusted nails, whilst trip and fall hazards meant children with mobility issues had to be closely supervised.

The new playground will be made of safe, durable materials (think Copper Flashing Nails to prevent rust and plastic to prevent splintered, rotting wood becoming an issue) and will be shaded to protect against sun exposure, well-drained to prevent flooding, visible from nearby paths and well-lit at night, away from traffic and separated from natural hazards such as deep water and sheer drops. It will also have plenty of loose-fill material such as sand, wood bark or rubber mulch to ensure landing doesn’t result in injury.

Natural landscaping will also be created to add visual interest and enhance the natural environment. Volunteer spots for the community build and community planting day have been filled. Those interested in being an alternate and added to a waiting list are asked to go to

Written by: Mikaela PorterContact Reporter
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