Rotary will build accessible playground

Project will enhance Sussex County Land Trust’s Hudson Park trailhead amenities
November 10, 2023

A partnership between Rotary clubs and Sussex County Land Trust will provide the first Can-Do Playground in the county.

The announcement was made Nov. 4 at the 30-acre Hudson Park during the land trust's fall festival. Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary Club playground project organizers Jack Riddle and Pete Booker said the county’s six Rotary Clubs will be involved in the project estimated to cost $700,000 to $800,000.

The park is located at the intersection of Cool Spring Road and Route 9 in Cool Spring east of Harbeson.

Riddle said Rotary members identified a need for an accessible playground, but it took them three years to find a partner. Riddle said land trust board member Judy Schwartz was instrumental in making a connection between the two organizations.

“We are excited and anxious for this to happen. It will make a difference in the county,” Riddle said. 

Without the land trust’s help, the project wouldn’t have happened. Riddle said raising funds for the playground will be hard enough, but if they also had to purchase property, the project probably would’ve been nixed. Now, land is not an issue, as it will be built at the land trust's Hudson Park trailhead for the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail.

Booker, who helped build the first Can-Do Playground in Delaware in Wilmington, said the playground will have four separate spaces for: 2- to 5-year-olds, 5- to 12-year-olds, a swing area and, for the first time, a sensory play area.

“Because we have the room to do it, this playground will have a quiet play area for kids with cognitive issues,” he said. “The playground will be designed for families who need special accessibility.”

Rotary has been working on Can-Do Playgrounds for 20 years. Booker said at least 70% of the playground equipment will be available to all children.

In addition, he said, Rotary members involved in the project will bring together stakeholders who deal with special-needs children to discuss their ideas for the playground.

Mark Chura, land trust executive director, said they expect the trailhead to be used extensively. “One thing we didn't expect was this partnership with Rotary. We are thrilled to work with them to meet their goal of an accessible playground,” he said.

Another Can-Do Playground was built in Milford on Patriots Way.

Land trust update

Heidi Gilmore, land trust chair, said Hudson Park is the first land trust park project to come to life.

She said work on Hopkins Preserve along Sweetbriar Road near Lewes will begin next year. And the county and land trust have partnered to preserve the 300-acre Forest of the Broadkill site near Milton.

“The county is partnering with us to bring public access to these sites,” Gilmore said.

Board member Mike Dickinson said the land trust exists because of people who want to preserve the beautiful places in the county that are not at the beach. The land trust has expanded its preservation program across the county, including Nanticoke Crossing near the Woodland Ferry near Seaford.

Board member and Sussex County Councilman John Rieley said the partnership with the land trust is important to the county. And the county has been able to devote more and more funds to land preservation because of its strong financial situation.

However, he said, the Hudson Park project will take more money than the county could possibly commit to.

Hudson Park was purchased in 2019 through a partnership with Sussex County, Delaware Open Space Council and Delaware Division of Parks. The county allotted $450,000 toward the purchase.

Chura said the trailhead is constructed to offer a safe stop on the trail. A section of the trail from the trailhead to Fisher Road has been constructed with a signalized crossing at the Fisher Road-Hudson Road intersection.

“I know a lot of people remember crossing Route 9 here when there was a rail line. We are trying to eliminate that memory and provide a safer crossing,” Chura said.

A ribbon was cut Sept. 26 to open Phase 1 of the project, which includes trail access and parking. Phase 2 will include more parking and a perimeter trail around the property, with work expected to begin in spring 2024. Phase 3 will include the playground, pavilion, restrooms, parking, shade structures, bike racks and a bicycle repair station, in addition to converting the existing farm field into a pollinator meadow.


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