A park unlike any other: Grand Opening of “Everyday Heroes” playground a roaring success

Sapulpa is unique in the number of high-quality, yet eccentric parks that we have. One we have was built entirely by volunteers and is made to look like Sapulpa’s earliest days as a dusty cow town.

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We have another surrounded by trees and a creek, with a nearly-new playground and a recently-added walking trail.

And there’s another that is in talks to be adjacent to the new water tower painting off Route 66 (see the adjacent sidebar for that story).

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Now, amazingly, Sapulpa is adding yet another jewel to its crown of city parks with the grand opening of the “Everyday Heroes” ADA playground located at Liberty Park.

The new playground has technically been open for a few weeks, but the grand opening celebration on Saturday morning was organized to invite any and all who wanted to come­ to see and play at the new park and enjoy the free ice cream, the food trucks, and the vendors.

Recreation Director Susan Bencke opened the celebration with a word of welcome and thanks for all those who helped make the day happen. She then introduced Mayor Craig Henderson who remarked what “an exciting time it is to be in Sapulpa,” as he highlighted not only the park, but the groundbreaking on the new fire station, the new water tower, and more things coming down the line for Sapulpa. He joined City Manager Joan Riley and other city councilors in cutting the red ribbon to the park, which was met by cheers and applause. “Let’s play!” Bencke shouted, as children and parents alike dispersed to begin playing on the now officially opened park.

The $600K project is part of the $40 million bond issue passed last year by the citizens of Sapulpa and is the brainchild of former Parks Director Jody Baker. In April, Baker told Sapulpa Times that the new playground was the first of its kind in the area and only the second of its kind in the whole state.

Among the most popular features is a newly designed merry-go-round that allows children in wheelchairs to roll right into the merry-go-round and participate with other children. Therapist Angela Henderson explained what a great experience it is for those kids, who had likely never had that sensation before. “Because most merry-go-rounds aren’t made for kids in wheelchairs, they’ve never gotten to feel the sensation of spinning around or swinging on a swing, like the other able-bodied children are able to do. It’s an amazing part of learning for these children.”

One of these children was six-year-old Daniel, who arrived to the playground in a special mobile unit that allowed him to stand up, but he was still strapped in and being pushed around by his father. He immediately headed for the merry-go-round, joining a handful of other children, including another in a wheelchair. As his brother pushed him, Daniel squealed. It was obvious he was having a great time.

Daniel, 6, smiles as his brother pushes him on the merry-go-round.

His father said that his family lives in Jenks, but used to drive as far as Bartlesville to find a playground where his son could participate. “This one is so much closer, but there’s also more to do here,” he said.

Another great feature of the playground that Angela Henderson mentioned was the use of signs indicating what was next for a child traversing the playground; yellow arrows pointed out the stairs and slides and were written in braille underneath so that even vision impaired children could enjoy the playground.

Parks Director Carson Lynch is new to the job here at Sapulpa, but he’s been around playgrounds long enough to know when an event is a success. “This is a great turnout,” he said. “It was all Susan. She organized this whole thing. It turned out phenomenal.”