New playground meets children’s needs

FLAG POLE HILL

For the Love of the Lake’s Elisabeth (Lis) Cramer Akin (left), with Chris, Jordan and Ellie Spieth at the ribbon cutting. Photo courtesy of FTLOTLBy Pat Sanchez

Drawing on the energy of a friendly 9-foot tall rubber ducky, as well as the genius of a landscape architect known for creating fun greenery at Texas Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital, For the Love of The Lake (FTLOTL) has built the community an exciting new, fully accessible playground at Flag Pole Hill. 

In 2014, For the Love of the Lake’s Executive Director Elisabeth Akin challenged the group to create a 20th anniversary project commemorating the organization’s two decades of service and stewardship for White Rock Lake Park. 

Ideally, the project would dramatically spotlight all the things FTLOTL had done throughout those years, as well as give something back to the community. 

Brainstorming took inspiration from FTLOTL’s mascot Rocky, since every time he travels through the neighborhoods, children laugh and shout “look, a rubber ducky!” This happy, giant yellow duck — 8 feet long and 9 feet tall — makes everyone laugh. 

Goals for the project included designing a new type of playground, one that would appeal to both children and adults. Making it a welcoming, inclusive outdoor play space for children and adults of all abilities was also vital to its success. 

With the help of feedback from the community, FTLOTL determined that the ideal location would be Flag Pole Hill (FPH), a satellite green space within the park. The existing playground there at that time was more than 20 years old and needed an upgrade to make it accessible to DART, as well as to the whole community. 

La Terra Studio (LTS), the landscape architect company hired by FTLOTL, designed this unique playground to accommodate adults and children with special needs. And that accommodation includes children on the autism spectrum, who can access special areas for alone play, as well as that the mobility issues for caregivers, like grandparents and older adults, are also taken into consideration to make navigating the playground a pleasure for them as well. LTS incorporated some of their inspired designs from what they had done at Texas Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. 

Once plans for the playground were approved by Dallas Park and Recreation Department Director Willis Winters, fundraising events were set in motion to make it all possible. Council Member Adam McGough and Park Board Representative for District 10 Robb Stewart contributed to FTLOTL’s anniversary project development as fundraising events kicked off. To date, current stakeholders invested in this community project include the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation, Exchange Club of Lake Highlands, LH Junior Women’s League, LH Women’s League and FLTOTL. 

“As executive director of For the Love of the Lake,” Elisabeth Akin said, “I am proud to have shepherded this project to its completion. I couldn’t have done it without help. I wish to thank my husband, Richard Akin, civil engineer, for the countless hours spent creating FPH playground site plans; Vail Fassett, pediatric occupational therapist, for presenting the 411 on sensory integration as it relates to ‘learning and play;’ Hira Hasan, University of North Texas grad student, for researching the needs assessment for this outdoor public inclusive play space; and FTLOTL board for their ongoing support. 

“It was wonderful to see so many come together for the collaboration of the greater good,” she added. “For the Love of the Lake is very excited to have the opportunity to continue to enhance the quality of life for all Dallas citizens. As my husband Richard Akin and I continue to volunteer with FTLOTL, we hope everyone gets the chance to visit Flag Pole Hill’s new playground, which provides plenty of space for picnics.”

 

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