April 16, 2021

The Growing Cost of Inclusive Playgrounds


A simple idea with profound implications – build a playground where children of all abilities can participate. A place where adventure awaits any that enter. Imaginations free to explore, and not a single child left to potential ridicule for not being physically or mentally able to play. An inclusive playground. What could ever be wrong with such a notion? In a word, cost. 

Inclusive playgrounds, a buzzphrase of all buzzphrases for the industry at the moment, can quickly become pricey endeavors.

Take this new inclusive playground on the Gulf Coast for a cool $350,000.

Or this one, built for both a church and the community, that’s estimated to cost over $100,000.

A million dollars or more? Why not. Here’s one in Marysville, TN that’s now projected to cost as much.

In short, we are living in an age of great abundance with our 70 inch smart flat screen TV’s, fully electric six figure SUV’s, and five dollar lattes, we assume our playgrounds should match this idea that dollar amount directly correlates to quality of goods sold.

Further, having one of these so-called inclusive play places, can incidentally become exclusive, leaving poorer communities without one. Contrast this with the seriously questionable adventure playground ideology, where a heaping of high cost is traded for an equal measure of danger, that unequivocally is not going to catch on beyond the fringes in our increasingly litigious society, and you quickly realize something is not right. 

Where does all this leave us? In short, we have a play industry that is teetering on outpricing itself for those that need it most. Think about it, the ones with the least amount of resources at home – think wifi, smartphones, backyards to explore – would appreciate the all inclusive playground the most.

There’s nothing wrong with enterprise, and capitalism, as it supports families, leads to innovation, and increases the quality of the end product. 

At the same time, it is important to reflect on the target market. Not just as a persona of one, but as the true representation would offer, diverse in all facilities, from socioeconomic status to abilities. From urban to rural, and from institutions small to large. 

Schools and parks are headed for an inflection point, as parents will certainly demand inclusive playgrounds, and some simply won’t be able to afford them. 

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