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“Wonder Spelen” Park to Serve Individuals with Disabilities

Two adults read a playground sign

Attractive signage at the entrance recognizes the numerous donors that made Wonder Spelen possible.

Meaning “miracle play” in Dutch, “Wonder Spelen” is a Pella-based nonprofit organization formed to raise money to create an all-inclusive park for children with disabilities. When the idea for creating this outdoor wonderland was proposed in 2018, Pella City Council members viewed the plan as an opportunity to turn the popular Kiwanis Park into a regional destination. The local Kiwanis Club immediately got to work to raise money for the park through fundraisers, private donations, and public contributions.

The City of Pella hired the team from Snyder & Associates to develop a comprehensive master plan for the park improvements that would complement the City’s distinct Dutch aesthetic while incorporating the necessary amenities for inclusive play. Our team also worked with custom building designers from Romtec to create a specialized restroom building to match the town’s theme.

Importance of Inclusive Play for All Children

Kids playing on the ADA playground equipment at Pella's Kiwanis Park

Several stand-alone play structures can accommodate wheelchairs.

Approximately 13% of children in the United States are served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Yet, this broad population segment is often lacking regarding safe, sensory-appropriate playground facilities. While ADA requirements call for accessible pathways to playground equipment, an appropriate ratio of ground-level play activities versus those higher up on the structure, and transfer platforms for children with mobility devices, inclusive playgrounds go further. These facilities are designed to be welcoming, engaging, and challenging for all children and provide opportunities to develop cognitive, sensory, physical, and social skills.

Inclusive playgrounds feature a variety of environments where children can engage at their own pace and sensory input level. They’re also welcoming to parents and caregivers, many of whom may have a disability, as well.

Multi-Phase Plan Allows for Staged Building Process

Our multi-phase park improvement plan took advantage of the available open space in Kiwanis Park to create a new parking area, inclusive playground structures, and an eight-foot-wide trail and sidewalk network to provide direct access to the play areas. The addition of interactive playground equipment, accessible restroom building, and sensory play equipment were the main pieces constructed for the project’s first construction phase. Because Kiwanis Park was already home to an open shelter house, tennis and pickleball courts, and a basketball court, the new play area fit seamlessly with the park’s recreational styling.

Phasing Plan for Kiwanis Park Improvements

Playground improvements staging plan.

The Romtec-supplied restroom building is a unique and attractive structure that stands out in the park yet fits well with the park’s design. The building is composed of two shades of tan and grey blocks arranged in a pattern that continues onto the faux chimney stacks and provides a distinct and uniform appearance. In addition, decorative shutters installed on the face of the building frame the drinking fountains and continue the Dutch theme. The structure also contains a large mechanical room with ample space to access plumbing and accommodate equipment storage.

While the phase one upgrades opened to the public in October 2021, the enhancements to the park will continue in phases two and three of the project. Phase two includes various new landscaping trees and plants, planting beds, two shade structures, and another play zone. Phase three will expand the parking lot, create more trails and walkways, and expand the community garden.

As future upgrades continue in Kiwanis Park, the city leader’s vision of the park becoming a regional destination will quickly come to fruition. The new state-of-the-art “Wonder Spelen” inclusive playground is positioned to serve children and adults of all ages and abilities for many years, helping people play together and ensuring no one is left out.