Columbia gets an all-inclusive park

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COLUMBIA - School is out in Columbia, and a newly renovated park is ready for children and families to enjoy.

"Woodridge Park has been an existing park in our system for many years, and it was needing some renovation work," said Mike Snyder, Superintendent of Planning and Development

Woodridge Park is now an all-inclusive park. All of the elements of the playground are accessible by kids with all levels of need and ability. 

The park now includes "ramps, music therapy, a group swing, ground-level features and poured-in-place surfacing," in addition to "single-table shelter, council ring and walking trail, with connections to the nearby Ronald McDonald House," according to Columbia Parks and Recreation. 

"It is a unique park in that it's location is so strategic," Snyder said. 

Woodridge park is within walking distance of the Ronald McDonald House, the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and the University of Missouri Women's and Children's Hospital. 

"It made sense for us to do a renovation there that would serve the needs of those neighbors, as well as the existing residential neighborhood in the area," Sydner said. "A lot of people don't realize it, but a lot of times a family will be staying at the Ronald McDonald House, and their child may be staying at the Women's and Children's Hospital. And there are other siblings and other family members that don't have a whole lot to do in Columbia, waiting for their child to get health services at the hospital. Not only is the park designed for children with special needs, but it's also designed for the families. "

"Just the fact that it's so close for families who need the time to get away from the day-to-day things that they're struggling with," said Rachel Sieker, granddaughter of Dr. Leroy Miller, whom the park is dedicated to. "To be able to include children of all abilities, to be able to play with them on so many different levels, to escape all of those things that they're worried about. Hopefully they can use this a place to escape all of that." 

The park cost $213,000 to renovate. The renovations were sponsored by a private donor, the Cosmopolitan Luncheon Club and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Sydner said the private donor's contribution "spurred the idea of making an all-inclusive playground in addition to adding amenities for families that are staying at the Ronald McDonald House."

Sieker said this park means a great deal to her family.

"This park means so much to me and my family, from my grandma down all the way to grandfather's great grandchildren," Sieker said. "Just the fact that family, and family time, were so important to him along with his love of medicine and his love of fun. Throughout our entire lives he was fun. This park would mean so much to him to see all of the kids here playing."