Play For All At New Inclusive Playground In Upper Providence

The Black Rock Park playground in Upper Providence Township
Image via General Recreation

For more than 20 years, playground consultant Will Hemler at General Recreation in Newtown Square has been at the forefront of accessible playground design.

Over the years he has helped develop a number of inclusive playgrounds. His most recent project was Black Rock Park in Upper Providence Township, Phoenixville.

Hemler first worked with Upper Providence back in 2001 on their first skate park. He’s since helped them with several playgrounds, an amphitheater, comfort stations (restrooms), pavilions, fabric shade structures, and site furnishings.

In 2019, Sue Hoffman, director of Upper Providence Parks and Recreation, brought to him the idea of a state-of-the-art inclusive playground.  

The project expanded over time in size and scope, as different locations were considered.

“It’s quite an evolution from where it started and what it’s become!” Hemler said.

They ended up repurposing an existing baseball field which gave them open space for the playground and any build-out from it.

“The large area did require their engineer to develop a drainage plan for the site,” Hemler said.

Installation of the drainage system and playground was handled by the township’s Public Works and Recreation Department,

The playground opened in July 2022 and has been embraced by the community.

The Township’s initial goal was to re-develop an older play area and create an inclusive playground, but as the goal developed, they realized they needed to make space for the most up-to-date structure offerings so they could provide an all-inclusive play experience for children, teens, and adults of all abilities.

The playground came in at 16,502 square feet and provides a myriad of play options for children with different sensory and mobility needs.

“The elements were hand-picked by Sue and her team. I fine-tuned and designed them to work together,” Hemler said.

The play area has a mix of tactile, movement, climbing, visual, and auditory experiences. 

There are zip lines, fitness equipment, adaptive and multi-user swings, a roller slide, a 12-foot climbing belt tower, spinners a We-Go-Round (a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round), and a Ninja Warrior Fitness Course.

Many of the play features also allow for parallel play, where children of different abilities can play and interact side by side. They also added elements for shade and seating.

The ground surface was also an important component for accessibility and safety.

They chose a Poured-in-Place rubber surface, which provides seamless transitions for mobility devices and strollers.

Engineered wood fiber surfacing was installed under the Ninja Warrior fitness area to create a truer, but still safe extreme fitness experience.

Hemler said Upper Providence has always been forward-thinking on creating play “firsts” for their community. It opened its first skate park in 2001 and now has Black Rock Park.

“It’s amazing to work with Sue and her team. They’re very focused on creating something next level,” he said.

 Sue loved to visit other playgrounds for ideas and has a lot of insight on what works and what doesn’t, Hemler said.

“This really helps us to dial in the best components, while eliminating redundancies and maintaining the high level of play experiences available,” Hemler said.

To learn more about designing and developing an inclusive playground for your organization or community, contact your local General Recreation Playground Consultant at 800-726-4793 or

General Recreation Inc. serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, and has helped hundreds of community leaders and organizations build playgrounds that are safe, aesthetically pleasing and made to last.

Find out more about General Recreation.

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