The Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation Authority broke ground on construction for an inclusive playground at Sokol Park, with the goal to become more accessible to children with disabilities and special needs.

The Tuscaloosa All-Inclusive Playground Project (TAPP) kicked off this $3.4 million initiative with its first phase, "The Tuscaloosa Phase," with several themed play sites modeled after area landmarks like Denny Chimes and Bryant-Denny Stadium, to name a few. The ground will be made of turf and rubber surfacing, and many amenities will be made wheelchair-accessible.

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"This project began back in 2016 when a mother... wanted a playground where her child could play along with her typically developing peers," said Caroline Lassiter, Director of Development with the PARA Foundation.

The project includes a picnic pavilion with wheelchair-accessible restrooms, as well as an expanded parking lot.

This project was made PARA's capital campaign in 2019 after a land purchase of three acres, and it quickly saw generous contributions from the Nick's Kids Foundation, with several other local businesses, and the Northport and Tuscaloosa city governments, following suit.

"This is what Tuscaloosa does best," said Mayor Walt Maddox, who spoke at the event. "I think today is about being together... I grew up understanding that everyone deserves that right and the opportunity in this world."

Others speakers included Judge Rob Robertson with the Tuscaloosa County Commission, Northport City Councilman Jay Logan, Mark Hickman of Peco Foods, and Ken Todd with McAbee Construction. Each spoke about their eagerness to get this project underway, and the cooperation between so many different organizations.

The ceremony closed with a call to action to the citizens of Tuscaloosa and Northport: PARA still has a long way to go with the project funds, and they're urging anyone who can to contribute.

Learn how to donate by visiting the PARA Foundation website.