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October 26, 2006 8:53 AM CDT

Play for the Senses


To a child in a wheelchair, a playground has to be more than some swings and a slide.
To a child in a wheelchair, a playground has to be more than some swings and a slide.

To a child in a wheelchair, a playground has to be more than some swings and a slide. It has to be designed to stimulate all five senses, the ground has to be smooth enough for wheelchairs to roll on, and most of all it has to be fun. The Tammy Lynn Center in Raleigh, N.C., a facility for children and adults with special needs, has accomplished all of that in their new playground.

The new playground, built with donated materials and overseen by a dedicated team of leaders from Raleigh's business community, includes a butterfly sanctuary, bird feeders, herb gardens, a trellis covered in sweet-smelling honeysuckle and a babbling brook. The environment encourages relaxation, playfulness, learning and may even stir up a giggle or two. The playground is covered with attractive shading structures and paved with brick.

"We wanted the playground to be an escape from the everyday, mundane tasks. We wanted to create a visually appealing space with interesting textures," said Mary Freeman, Tammy Lynn Center president. "Because of the nature of our facility, it had to be accessible for wheelchairs."

Landscape architect Chris Hilt of CLH Design P.A. in Cary, N.C., specified brick pavers for the playground. She said that the pavers provide a perfect surface for wheelchair accessibility and effectively tied the design of the playground to the surrounding buildings.

Hilt said that using a variety of materials on the ground, including pavers, effectively provides a different sensory experience, more in tune with the real world.

"This play area is not just an area of respite, it's a place where they learn more mobility," Hilt said.

Helping its clients adjust to the real world is what the Tammy Lynn Center is all about. The facility offers educational, residential and family support to its clients, who have a variety of physical and mental disabilities.

The new playground was planned with different "stimulation" areas in mind. The babbling brook is heard from the wooden bridge above it and butterflies can be seen from nearby benches. On a sunny day, children can feel the wind on their face from a swing or a hammock both of which are accessible by wheelchair and can see sunlight shining through the engraved glass blocks that make up the playground's touch wall.

A Playground in Need
Tammy Lynn Center wanted a playground that everyone could enjoy.
Tammy Lynn Center wanted a playground that everyone could enjoy.

Leadership Raleigh, part of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, chose to take on the Tammy Lynn Center playground as its community service project. The goal was to raise enough money to build a new playground that would stimulate the senses with textures, smells, sounds and visual appeal. Leadership Raleigh and the Tammy Lynn Center wanted a playground that would offer everyone an opportunity to enjoy the new space.

To cut construction costs, Leadership Raleigh contacted suppliers in the area to get donations of materials. Pine Hall Brick, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., put out the call for additional donations of materials and labor. Stiles & Hart in Boston, one of Pine Hall's major distributors, provided the Tammy Lynn Center with approximately 10,000 brick pavers.

"This project was a perfect fit for brick pavers, which offer a smooth surface for maximum wheelchair accessibly," said Ted Corvey, paver business director of Pine Hall Brick. "A lot of people don't realize that clay pavers laid in sand offer a smoother surface than poured concrete, even with molded clay pavers. That's why we contacted Stiles and Hart, makers of the famous Boston City Hall paver."

Kevin Barry, vice president of Stiles and Hart, said his firm was pleased to help with the effort.

"We supplied the pavers for the playground because we feel that it is an ideal surface for this project," Barry said. "It replaced a hard-to-get-around playground with a park-like area that is easy for anyone and everyone to enjoy, regardless of disability."

As a natural product, brick is one of the oldest manufactured building materials. It was an obvious choice for this surface because it can stand the test of time both in its durability and in its appeal. To ensure a good installation, Corvey arranged for local segmental paving contractor Fred Adams of Fred Adams Paving Co. to install the pavers.

"Professional installation is key to ensure a long lifespan and a smooth surface that was required for the playground," Adams said.

The Outcome
The new playground will be enjoyed by children and their families for many years to come.
The new playground will be enjoyed by children and their families for many years to come.

The new playground is able to accommodate a number of families at a time and is a place where visiting siblings also have fun playing.

"It is truly an exceptional space for the children to play and to visit with their families," Freeman said. "All of the different features, such as the herb garden and the touch wall, contribute to the success of this new playground for the senses."

Other areas of the campus are paved with brick from many years ago. The center has been very pleased with the way that the bricks have continued to add charm and character to the campus. The brick on the new playground complements the traditional look of the other brick areas at the Tammy Lynn Center.

"The sensory aspects of the playground are very important," Freeman said. "The brick, along with the water features and the sun features, gives us a variety of textures, colors and beauty. It has all worked out brilliantly in this environment where there is an abundance of sensory stimuli."

The products chosen had to be durable for the longest-lasting playground possible. The brick will hold up through every season, including a wintry mix of freezing rain, common to central North Carolina.

"One thing that I am anticipating is that, in the winter, the bricks will provide a better surface in snow and ice," Freeman said. "It will be a safer surface than concrete in the cold winter months."

It is a space that children and their families at the Tammy Lynn Center will enjoy for many years to come. They'll just have to remember to stop and smell the honeysuckle.

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at

Photos courtesy of Diane McKinney Photography.


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