Ocean County Park May Get Updated With Inclusive Play Area

The playground on East Lacey Road will be upgraded. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  LACEY – A revamping of an Ocean County Park that opened in 1998 may soon become a destination for local families who have children with special needs as well as other typical kids.

  County officials are in the process of applying for funding to update the playground at Eno’s Pond County Park. The plan is to provide children of all different abilities with modified playground equipment that allows for inclusion.

  Eno’s Pond County Park is located at 330 East Lacey Road.

  Mary Jane Bavais, Assistant Director of Ocean County Parks & Recreation presented the concept of the inclusion playground at a special hearing last week before the county commissioners.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  According to Bavais, some of the funding for the project would come as a result of a bill signed into effect in August of 2018. State lawmakers passed Jake’s Law to promote inclusive playgrounds in all counties throughout New Jersey.

  The law is named in honor of the late Jacob Cummings-Nasto, who died as a toddler due to heart issues since his birth. A Cherry Hill playground served as an ideal place for the child’s physical therapy during his lifetime. Local officials in that community dubbed the playground as “Jake’s Place.”

  “The Jake’s Law funding application goes through Green Acres,” explained Bavais. “It is a 25 percent match on the County of Ocean.”

  The total request for state assistance amounts to $771,750 to bring a significant change to the existing playground. Ocean County would be obligated to contribute $257,250 of the anticipated costs provided the funding goes through as planned.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  “We are replacing an existing playground with what would be a completely inclusive playground,” Bavais said. “No one would be left out and everyone can play no matter what their abilities or disabilities, or challenges are.”

  Sample exhibits of inclusive playgrounds show wheelchair friendly and accessible equipment. Sensory focused equipment and musical instruments will allow children to express themselves. Plans would include adapting an assortment of slides and swings to ensure a maximum number of people can use them.

  The concept of an inclusive playground strengthens children’s ability to develop physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally.

Site plans for the proposed inclusive playground. (Photo courtesy Ocean County Parks)

  “As we’re dealing with the children, we’re also helping the adult seniors,” pointed out Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari. “They may have some type of disability or situation that one time made them feel excluded.”

  “Now, we’ll have inclusion, which means that they can all play together as they should,” Vicari continued. “Research shows that it’s beneficial for everyone – the advantage of working with and seeing those with disabilities and having a mutual respect.”

  Deputy Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Gary Quinn lives in Lacey Township and spoke about his familiarity with Eno’s Pond County Park.

Ocean County officials have applied for funding to revamp the existing playground in Eno’s Pond County Park to an inclusive one for children of all abilities. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Quinn referred to the park as a hidden gem, while adding his suspicions that the park would no longer remain hidden after the updated playground reached completion.

  “I think a lot more people will be coming into town to be able to utilize it,” said Quinn. “There’s not a lot of this type of facility throughout Ocean County, and more throughout the state.”