City of Missoula Receives Grant for Accessible Playground in McCormick Park

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On Thursday, January 17, Mayor John Engen accepted a $150,000 grant from the Morris and Helen Silver Foundation to begin construction of a new, universally-accessible playground in McCormick Park. The public was invited to attend the announcement and the celebration that happened afterward.

The Playground Project at McCormick Park includes play equipment for children of all ages and abilities.
The new playground features wheelchair-accessible surfacing and adaptive play equipment to bring all children together in play. To design the playground, Parks and Recreation staff met with focus groups of kids using wheelchairs, kids on the autism spectrum and youth with other disabilities.

Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler says the new playground will be an exciting play space for all Missoula children. “It’s vitally important to create inclusive play spaces in our community, where people of all ages and abilities can play together. Playgrounds are where kids are most active, and where they learn creativity and problem solving. This playground allows all children to gain the developmental and health benefits derived from unstructured play in an inclusive environment.” The new playground expands on the vision of the Bonner Park All-Children’s wheelchair-accessible playground by bringing the latest inclusive play technology to Missoula—including play features for children with sensory, cognitive and multiple disabilities.

Gaukler says the Playground Project at McCormick Park also offers a variety of community benefits. “We’re very excited to be building the first playground of this type in state of Montana, and we expect it will draw visitors from around the region, just as MOBASH Skatepark does. Special amenities in parks and a healthy built environment are important factors in our community’s quality of life and economic vitality. With the addition of the playground to McCormick Park, we’re creating a universally-accessible recreation zone, including Currents Aquatics Center, Silver’s Lagoon, and the Ron MacDonald Riverfront Trail System.”

The project is funded by the $150,000 Silver Foundation grant, a $50,000 capital improvement contribution from the City, and funds raised by the All-Abilities Playground Project, a group of local parents and children committed to bringing inclusive play to Missoula. The total needed to start construction of Phase 1 of the project is $350,000 and the fund balance currently sits at $291,000. “We’re close enough to put the project construction out to bid this spring,” Gaukler says. “To start construction in late summer, we’ll need the community’s help to raise the additional $59,000.”

Thursday’s celebration will be held at 2:30 p.m. in McCormick Park, 600 Cregg Lane, near the existing playground. Citizens are invited to attend and learn more about the project. A short reception will follow in Currents Aquatics Center. The Silver Foundation is a philanthropic organization created by the Silver family, who donated a portion of the land for McCormick Park to the City in 1937.

For more information the Playground Project in McCormick Park, visit, or phone Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler at 552-6265.