This weekend the Greater Richmond ARC opened the gates to ARCpark and seriously upped our playground game—for ALL Richmonders.
About three weeks ago I got a Facebook message from a friend and fellow Northsider. It included photos of a playground that could only be described as “magical”, along with a note saying it was free and open to the public starting August 29th.
“Say whaaaaaaa?” I responded1.
I was stoked.
Here’s the thing: even though we Richmond-area parents have it pretty good when it comes to playground and parks, I get ridiculously excited when I hear about a new spot opening up. One can never have too many places in his or her activity arsenal with the specific purpose of running kids ragged, you see. But when I found out the story behind this particular place? Well, consider my heartstrings tugged.
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The Greater Richmond ARC has been providing support and fulfilling opportunities for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities since the 1950s. After hearing from the families it serves about the need for a recreational space for individuals with and without disabilities2, the Greater Richmond ARC began work on ARCpark, central Virginia’s first all-inclusive, handicap-accessible park.
Located on 2.4 acres adjacent to the Greater Richmond ARC’s headquarters on Richmond’s Northside, ARCpark offers the chance for all Richmonders–regardless of age or ability–to exercise and play alongside their neighbors.
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For those looking for the “traditional” playground experience, ARCpark offers open lawn space, swings galore (including a wheelchair-accessible glider)3, and three state-of-the-art playgrounds: a tot lot, one for ages 5 to 12, and a space for bigger kids and adults. Fans of creative and discovery play will love the stage, playhouse, musical instruments, and ARCpark’s custom-built, multi-sensory wall.
Oh and let’s not forget the the gorgeous and completely wheelchair-accessible4 treehouse built around a four-ton, repurposed eucalyptus stump shipped from California. Because why the hell not?
In addition to pulling out all the stops when it comes to providing Richmonders with a space to exercise and play, ARCpark goes all out when addressing the practical needs of all of its visitors, as well. Specialized features include an adult-sized changing table in the family restroom; water misting stations; charging stations for electric wheelchairs; and plenty of shade (and seating) under the pavilion situated right in the park’s center. You’ll also find recycled, poured-rubber safety surfaces throughout the park.
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My family and I made our inaugural visit to ARCpark on Sunday morning. After walking through the park’s gates, the three of us stopped in our tracks and simultaneously gasped, “Whoaaaaaaa…” The space is that impressive. Our six-year-old son wasn’t sure where to start.
While my husband took our little guy around to check out the options, I had to the opportunity to watch and listen as fellow Richmonders experienced this new community treasure5 right along with me. The kids mostly smiled uncontrollably. The adults were more vocal…
“This place is crazy!”
“How is this free?”
“It’s like a theme park!”
“This is just…here? For anyone?”
Yep. For anyone and everyone.
Hope to see all of y’all out there.
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ARCpark is located at 3600 Saunders Avenue, just off of Laburnum Avenue in the Northside. It’s free and open to the public. Hours are from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. For more about ARCpark, visit richmondarc.org.