OSWEGO — Port City officials celebrated the opening of the first accessible playground Friday morning at Hamilton Park as part of an ongoing effort to make Oswego a more inclusive community.
Designed to accommodate children with disabilities, the park includes an accessible swing and a variety of other equipment for children to enjoy. Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow, along with representatives from Arise, Inc. and a number of other local advocates, hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday morning.
City officials noted the new playground complements other recent improvements and investments made throughout the city to improve accessibility and inclusivity, including the installation of four wheelchair charging stations in city parks, an accessible splash pad at the city pool, a wheelchair accessible overlook at Breitbeck Park and major improvements by the state Department of Transportation that improve wheelchair mobility on state Route 104.
"We’ve worked these last three years to make Oswego a more inclusive community and I believe we need to continue these efforts, making Oswego a better place for all,” Barlow said. “Representing and advocating for those with disabilities in our community is a cause I am personally passionate about and I intend to combine this passion with our efforts to improve our parks, making Oswego more unique than other nearby communities and being sure to consider all Oswego residents when making important decisions."
Barlow, who first announced the construction of the new playground in his 2019 State of the City Address in January, has frequently cited the need to accommodate and include all Oswego residents when crafting policies and making other decisions aimed at improving the community.
Betty Fazio, chief development officer of ARISE, applauded the opening of the new playground, thanking Barlow, Novelis and others who supported the project "on behalf of all children with disabilities who can now use the same playground as their peers."
"When the city, non-profits, and private companies all work together, great things are achieved for our community," Fazio said.
Chloe Joyce, a 13-year-old accessibility and disability equality advocate who met with Barlow last year to discuss ways to improve accessibility throughout the city, cut the ribbon Friday morning and spoke to the crowd about the importance of accessibility and some of the advocacy that led to the park.
"When I met with Mayor Barlow, we talked about changes to the environment that would make enjoying Oswego easy for people in wheelchairs," she said. "Mayor Barlow listened to my concerns and shared some of his plans. We have enjoyed finding improved parking, wheelchair charging stations, new curb cuts and now this beautiful park and I'd like to thank Mayor Barlow for his efforts and for inviting me to be a part of this transformation."
Councilor Ron Tesoriero, R-6th Ward, applauded the mayor and other city officials for listening to constituents who saw the need for such a park, and said he is happy to be part of a common council that supported the park.
"I'm proud to have this handicap-accessible park in my ward," Tesoriero said. "I think we have many great things that we're going to do for accessibility in the future and what a great day for these special kids and adults who now have some place to go and enjoy like most children should."
City officials said the playground equipment and installation cost approximately $120,000.
Barlow said officials plan to continue searching for ways to make Oswego more inclusive and more accessible.