A playground for all: In the sandbox with Murphy-Oakley Community Center’s inclusive playground designer Rebecca Cipriano

Rebecca Cipriano is a project manager in the Construction Division of the City of Asheville’s Capital Management Department. With a focus on parks and playgrounds, channeling play is part of Rebecca’s everyday life on the job. 

Outside of the slides, swings and monkey bars, hard work and expertise are also required in order to deliver quality play and recreation spaces. Fortunately, Rebecca has 17 years of project management experience and a landscape architecture license. Now in her sixth year with the City of Asheville, Rebecca has worked on projects to improve playgrounds and parks across the community, including Magnolia Park, Herb Watts Park, Jake Rusher Park, and Memorial Stadium and Mountainside Park

In 2022 Rebecca took on the challenge of designing and managing the construction of Asheville’s first inclusive playground at Murphy-Oakley Community Center, a project funded by the voter approved 2016 bond. The goal of the all-abilities playground is to provide equitable recreation experiences and provide quality outdoor play for people of all abilities that encourage both physical and social inclusion.

For Rebecca, who has two children with disabilities, this project is close to home. Through her work, the Murphy-Oakley playground is truly created for all. Elements like the “Serenity Spot” provide those with neurodiversity a place to go when overstimulated. An accessible pathway leading to the elevated play equipment makes it possible for children with limited mobility to have barrier-free access to the slides. 

The park is designed with caretakers in mind, too. “It is more common now to have both parents working and grandparents taking care of the kids, which means an older generation is taking the kids to the park,” Rebecca says. Accommodating caretakers includes ensuring walking surfaces are level and installing benches with arms.

When it came to deciding on specific details of the playground equipment, Rebecca and the project team were especially thorough. “We wanted to make sure the instruments in the music play area sounded nice and were low maintenance,” Rebecca says. This required field trips to other playgrounds in the region as well as input from children in Asheville Parks &Recreation’s Therapeutic Recreation program, which operates in the Murphy-Oakley Community Center.

“It brings me joy to see people using a park when a project is completed,” Rebecca says. 

The inclusive Murphy-Oakley playground project is almost complete. A public ribbon cutting event is scheduled for June 25, 2024 at 1:30 p.m. and will include a short ceremony followed by open play.

Rebecca is also managing construction of several current and upcoming park projects, including Burton Street Park, Weaver Park Playground, Roger Farmer Park sports court, and Carrier Park Playground. She is part of the Construction Division’s team of three project managers delivering not only playground projects, but a wide range of projects like sidewalks, greenways, community centers, fire stations, parking garages, and more, throughout the city.

Learn more about all of City of Asheville’s projects and initiatives.

 

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