Parents for Joy working to raise remaining funds

After nearly six years of work, Joy Playground next to Colony Park Community Center in Atascadero is getting closer to opening. Parents for Joy, the group of community members who came together to make this park a reality, will hold a grand opening on Friday, April 5 at 4 p.m.

Parents for Joy member Geoff Auslen said that the group will keep its promise to open the playground within a year of breaking ground, which happened in May 2018, despite setbacks.
“Originally, [the park was] supposed to be three feet below grade,” Auslen said, adding that after ground was broken, it was discovered that there is city infrastructure under the where the playground will be. Having to redesign the park to be at ground level set the park’s progress back by three months, he said.

“One thing about this project, unlike any other project, [is that] we have to be 100 percent right because it’s 100 percent ADA,” Auslen said. “There’s no room for error. Everything has to be absolutely precise.”

The first things that went in were the two ramps that would allow people in wheelchairs to access the playground. Auslen said that the largest ramp needed to be in so the treehouse could be aligned with the ramp and then the rest of the equipment will be set off the treehouse.

The playground, which is a fully inclusive facility for all abilities, is nearly fully funded. Out of the $1.2 million needed for it, as of mid-February only $75,000 still needed to be raised, Auslen said.
“We have a Bridge Loan for the remainder, but we want to have it all paid by the grand opening,” he said.

For those who would like to donate to the playground, Parents for Joy has a GoFundMe campaign. Search for Parents for Joy Atascadero for the campaign.

The group will have a community-wide yard sale on Saturday, April 13 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. around Atascadero. Individuals and organizations are invited to register with Parents for Joy to be added to the map. The cost is $15 for a household and $40 for an organization.

K Jons is also donating $25 from each ear piercing to the project.

The idea for the project began years ago when special needs moms Sarah Sullivan and Jenelle Allen decided that they could get a special needs park built in Atascadero. They took that idea to the Atascadero City Council in May 2013 and were met with enthusiastic support, so they got started on fundraising and
planning the park.

To be fully inclusive, it will be completely fenced in so those prone to elopement are safe and it will feature ramps to allow those in wheelchairs to access the equipment. Auslen said that Joy Park will be the only inclusive playground in the county and that the closest inclusive park is in Salinas, although that one is not fenced in.
“Parents who are in wheelchairs can finally get on the playground with their kids,” Auslen said, adding that even those in wheelchairs can get on the swings. “That’s what inclusive means —
it’s for everyone.”

To learn more about the playground, visit ParentsforJoy.org.