By Conrad Dudderar
Thirty years ago, a dream was launched in Yukon about starting an inclusive playground that people of all ages and abilities could enjoy.
In 2023, work has gotten underway to upgrade Freedom Trail Playground at 2100 S Holly.
The City of Yukon hosted a ground-breaking ceremony March 7 for the Freedom Trail Playground and Splash Pad project across from Shedeck Elementary School.
Rudy Construction was awarded a $1,682,221.28 contract to install state-of-the-art play equipment and a water feature.
The Oklahoma City company’s contract began March 1, and the project is due be finished within 300 days. The Yukon City Council awarded the bid in December 2022.
Freedom Trail has been closed since last spring when crews demolished the play structures and related items.
Among those participating in the recent ground-breaking was Yukon’s Diana Hale, who chaired an all-volunteer committee that led construction efforts in the mid-1990s.
“I’m grateful that the City of Yukon, Yukon City Council and Yukon Park Board want to continue to serve all citizens of the community,” Hale said. “I want to thank all the city representatives for being a visionary for this new playground while retaining the original spirit of Freedom Trail.
“It shows how Yukon really cares about all its citizens.”
Serving with Hale on the Freedom Trail Playground committee three decades ago were Carole Garner, Dee Blose, Melody Duty, Charles Brandley, Debbie Cain, and Bob Schwaninger.
Several original committee members worked with Yukon city staff and a landscape architect over the past year to help design the “new” Freedom Trail.
“We got to be a part of it,” Hale said. “The City of Yukon included us in the planning of the new playground.”
Freedom Trail’s new playground will be about the same size as the previous one, according to City of Yukon grant writer Claudia Krshka.
The surface will be a combination of pour-in-place rubber coating and artificial turf.
“This park should be a place where Yukon citizens of all ages and abilities can play without barriers alongside one another,” Krshka said. “They should not have to leave their hometown to find a playground that accommodates their needs.”
An inclusive playground is “for everyone”, Krshka said, regardless of a person’s “limiting factors” or whether their impairment is visible.
Krshka also participated in the March 7th ground-breaking ceremony alongside Yukon City Council and Yukon Park Board members, Yukon city administrators, and Yukon Parks & Recreation personnel.
A $400,000 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant will cover less than one-fourth about 23.7% of the total price tag for the new Freedom Trail Playground and Splash Pad.
Awarded to the City of Yukon several years ago, this federal grant is administered through the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
But work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project architect’s construction estimate was $1,302,788 for the base bid and $1,583,788 for the bid plus all alternates.
Contractor prices came in higher than expected due to increased costs of supplies and materials, City officials said.
The award-winning Freedom Trail was one of only two “all-inclusive” playgrounds in Oklahoma when it opened in 1996 at Yukon City Park.
Over the next 26 years, Freedom Trail deteriorated and required significant maintenance. Many pieces of broken equipment couldn’t be repaired or replaced.
Freedom Trail’s new splash pad will be the second such “spray ground” in Yukon. The first opened in May 2014 at Sunrise Park.