Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson joined local residents for the grand opening of Young Pine Community Park on Jan. 28. The new park in District 4 features an inclusive playground designed for children with disabilities.
The playground includes braille signs for those who are visually impaired, ramps and swings for children in wheelchairs and a quiet area for those who can become overwhelmed by noise and crowds.
“We realize how very precious every single one of our children are and we realize how very capable every one of our children are, if we just make the small accommodations that are necessary to allow them to enjoy all that life has to offer for them,” Mayor Jacobs said. “I don’t think there’s any place that compares to Orlando and Orange County when it comes to being united, compassionate and realizing the strengths that lie in every single individual.”
The Young Pine Community Park groundbreaking was held in June 2014. Now complete, it is the first new park in Orange County and Central Florida to feature an inclusive playground that welcomes children of all ages and abilities. Additionally, the 61-acre park will also feature a dog park, workout stations, walking trails, a kayak launch, a fishing pier and multipurpose fields.
“We’ve been working to bring this park to East Orange County for about six years and it’s the first park to open on this side of the County in decades,” said Commissioner Thompson at the park opening. “With about 60 acres, 20 acres or so of play space, it provides citizens an open area for activities, sports and much more. The one thing that makes it really unique is the inclusive playground, the first one in the County.”
Donna Dorman, president of the Autism Society of Greater Orlando; Marytza Sanz, president of Latino Leadership; Rogue Gallart, president of the Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce at the National Entrepreneur Center and Dr. Ilene Wilkins, president and CEO of UCP of Central Florida – which provides comprehensive services to local special needs children – were all in attendance to celebrate the grand opening of the new park.
“If you talk to any parent of a child with autism or any other disability, it’s always a goal of ours to make them a part of the community where we live,” Dorman said. “[We want] to build that empathy, to build that support in a natural environment and there’s no better place than a park.”
“We strive to make all of our Orange County parks accessible to every citizen and we are delighted that Young Pine Park is a step in this direction,” said Orange County Parks and Recreation manager Matt Suedmeyer. “Special thanks to Commissioner Thompson who was instrumental in the design of the park and gathering the community to help build an inclusive playground for all ages and abilities.”
The park has three gridiron fields, two playgrounds, a kayak/canoe launch, fishing dock, dog park, walking path and nature trail, and restrooms. The playground is a representation of diversity and inclusion in the community, Mayor Jacobs said in her opening remarks. Downey Park added an inclusive playground in 2015, however, Young Pine Community Park is the first to be built and designed from the ground up with an inclusive playground.
“We know that all children are incredibly special and need places to play,” Mayor Jacobs said. “This is a place where kids can play with their friends and indulge in their imaginations.”
To view photos from the Young Pine Community Park Grand Opening, visit Mayor Jacobs’ Flickr album.