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A group of kids push a pirate ship to get it swaying back and forth during the grand opening of the new pirate themed Universal Abilities Playground at Veterans Park in Brentwood, Calif., on Friday Feb. 1, 2013. The City of Brentwood, along with the Special Kids Foundation helped sponsor the event. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff)

BRENTWOOD -- The days of sitting on the sidelines and watching other children play at Brentwood parks are over for local children with special needs now that the city has its own pirate-themed Universal Abilities Playground at Veterans Park.

"Now our kids can play, able to enjoy setting sail into a playground pirate fantasy alongside their siblings and peers unhindered by any obstacles," said Special Kids Foundation Executive Director Lisa McBride at the grand opening of the new playground along Balfour Road on Friday. "As special needs families, we are no longer alone on the high seas, but among loyal shipmates bound for destinations beyond our wildest dreams."

Designed with input from parents of children with special needs, the Universal Abilities Playground features musical, spinning and lifting elements and elements deemed accessible by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The equipment is meant to foster social, emotional, physical, sensory, cognitive and communication development in all children. A color-coded chart illustrates each piece of equipment for playground users and how it can promote development in each of the six key areas.

Brentwood resident Amanda Schmidt lives nearby and said the playground is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

"It is very special for the kids that need it," she said.


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The pirate theme is part of each detail of the ship, including a plank, telescope, deck, mast, treasure chest, crow's-nest and moving components like a Rock and Raft and a Merry-Go-All, which is a merry-go-round that is accessible to children in wheelchairs. The project was a collaboration between the city of Brentwood and Special Kids, with help from the Lions Club, Hannah Nicole Winery and various companies, McBride said.

"This park, with its precisely chosen and specially designed features, changes the lives of children and families who have always had to watch, but could not really enjoy," said Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor, sporting Captain Jack Sparrow gear. "Finally, everyone has access to play."

Special Kids Vice President CiCi Migay pointed out that this playground is one of only three of its kind from East Contra Costa County to Central Contra Costa. Others are at Oakley's Crockett Park and Matteo's Dream in Concord.

Many Special Kids parents donated countless hours through feedback and suggestions on the project, and Migay encouraged other communities to build their own all-abilities playgrounds.

"It has become a calling to do what I can in my little corner of the world," she said. "(The playground) is more beautiful and brilliant than I ever imagined it to be."

According to Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Piepho, this playground will provide children with countless hours of recreation and physical activity along with a sense of community. She noted that the location at Veterans Park was very fitting.

"These children are soldiers," Piepho said. "They fight battles every day that we can't understand."

Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or pking@bayareanewsgroup.com.