Written by Kristin Roberts
During a grand celebration in October, the park opened its gates to residents, neighbors, friends, and visitors. With its state-of-the-art amenities, Choccolocco Park is unlike any other. To the City of Oxford, it is imperative that the park provides safe, attractive, and welcoming recreational facilities for people of all ages, backgrounds, interests, and abilities, which is why the Boundless Playground was a top priority for Oxford.
With the guidance of Michele Miller, the 2012 Ms. Wheelchair Alabama, the City constructed an all-inclusive playground specially adapted to encompass the needs of individuals with disabilities. According to Miller, the modified playground equipment allows all patrons to interact without the fear of being left out.
Miller believes that the Boundless Playground plays a significant role in combating health issues and adds important components of hearty lifestyles. Miller said:
“ It encourages inclusion, and it helps fight against health problems and physical fitness issues. If kids are active and they play and maintain healthy lifestyles, those practices will stay with them forever. Besides the physical aspects, the playground encourages acceptance. It motivates children to be more open and more receptive of differences. It puts them in a situation where they do not feel closed in or cornered. They are in a place of play and imagination. They are going to be so busy playing that they won’t see the disability; they will see the person.
The Boundless Playground encourages kids to be kids and to embrace the differences and similarities that each person has. Miller said:
“ Most people assume that when someone has a disability that he or she is the only one that may feel different in certain settings, but seldom do they think about how the able-bodied person feels. With this playground, however, they are not going to reflect on the wheelchair, crutches, or disability because it is not stopping them from playing with each other.”
The playground sits on land that was a place of profound spiritual heritage and where a thriving Native American town once lived. The City of Oxford will connect the past with the present by continuing to recognize the site as a space of shared community no matter who you are or where you come from. The City believes the playground and park will help to break down barriers between people while encouraging present and future generations to be more open and inclusive of everyone.
Miller’s dream of an all-inclusive playground in her hometown started in 2014 when traveling to Stow, Ohio as Ms. Wheelchair Alabama. While there, she saw a Boundless Playground firsthand and started researching it right away. When returning to Oxford, she met with Don Hudson, Director of Oxford Parks and Recreation, and pitched the concept.
“He told me, ‘That’s a very good idea, Michele. We just need a place to put it.’ I asked that, perhaps, one of the playgrounds at Choccolocco Park could be a Boundless Playground. He loved it and immediately started working with the architect and other city staff to make the playground come to fruition,” Miller said.
“Everyone was so excited. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so much fun’ type of excitement. It was just like I had hoped,” Miller said. “We now have a place for kids to go where there are no boundaries. Being able to see children play and knowing that no child will be excluded due to a disability is amazing. I am very proud of the playground and of knowing I played a role in its making. My future grandchildren will also have something to be proud of me for and they will be able to play on something I took part in. That is just really special to me. I hope everyone enjoys the playground and helps taking care of it by using the equipment appropriately. I also hope patrons will invite all their friends from near and far so we can share the greatness of Oxford.”
The Boundless Playground is open from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day of the week. To learn more about Choccolocco Park, go to www.choccoloccopark.com