ITHACA, N.Y. — A new accessible playground is coming to Stewart Park by next summer, built by the community.

When complete, the new playground will feature natural play areas, accessible walkways and splash pad and new accessible bathrooms. The project was first conceived when people voiced concerns that normal playgrounds were inaccessible for children who had certain disabilities.

“One of the big things people wanted was a new playground … and they decided it should be one that is accessible,” said Lucas Raley, playground build coordinator for Friends of Stewart Park. “We call it an inclusive playground because it’s one for everybody. It’s not a playground tailored just to people with disabilities, and it’s not a playground just for people without disability issues. It’s for (all kids) to play.”

With stairs and steep ramps, many playgrounds can be difficult to access for individuals with disabilities that affect their motor skills or ability to walk upright. The new playground attempts to correct these issues by adding more accessibility options. According to the Friends of Stewart Park website, they are adding:

  • an accessible splash pad
  • a berm accessible by ramp that leads to a view of the lake, as well as “provides children a starting point for exciting play experiences for all children”
  • new accessible bathrooms and changing stalls
  • a restored and accessible carousel (already completed)
  • ramps that allow access to the play structures

Related: Friends of Stewart Park plans ‘very special’ new playground

The project has received a $1 million grant from the state, after being nominated by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. Friends of Stewart Park has also been asking for private donations, and has raised over $500,000 so far. The $1.5 million total has brought them close to their final goal of $1.7 million, according to Raley.

In September, the project is moving forward with Phase 1, or the “community build” phase. They aim to complete the work using solely volunteer workers from the local community.

It will take place over a roughly one-week time span, from Sept. 11 to 16. About 130 people have signed up to help so far, Raley said, but they are still looking for more volunteers to get the work done.

The work will be done in three shifts per day. The shifts are 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 4:30 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 11 to 16.

The sign up page can be found on the Stewart Park build website. Volunteers can sign up for a single shift, or all three. People can also work just a single day, or every single day of the build phase. No construction experience is required to volunteer, as there will be individuals on-site to give instructions to people and teach volunteers how to use the tools necessary to complete the work.

For those who don’t want to work on the physical build itself, there are plenty of other roles to fill. Raley mentioned that people are also needed to help with handling sign-in, food/refreshments, and watching over children in case volunteers don’t want to leave their kids at home.

Friends of Stewart Park is also looking for individuals willing to loan them tools for help with the build.

“You can bring [the tools] before the build starts, and we’ll assign it a number, check it out to your name, and have it in a locked shed the whole week,” Raley said.

Anyone willing to loan tools is urged to contact Lucas Raley via email, at

For more information, visit