Sullivan Foundation partner school Winthrop University has signed an historic agreement that will allow the construction of a 15-acre park for people of all ages and abilities to play and work, the university recently announced. Called Miracle Park, it’s a public/private project between the university, the city of Rock Hill, S.C., and the York County Disabilities Foundation. The city and Winthrop are providing the land through a low-cost, long-term lease for the park location on Cherry Road.
Developers said Miracle Park promises to bring the joys of recreation to those who might need it most—South Carolinians with mobility challenges, developmental disabilities, and other special needs. The park, when completely built out, will include two Miracle fields, two multi-purpose fields, a special needs playground, and a café that will employ people with disabilities.
Dan Mahony, Wofford’s president, said the nearby park will allow Winthrop students in several academic disciplines to participate in internship and service opportunities. “Diversity and inclusion efforts are important to the Winthrop community, and naturally we are eager to contribute to Rock Hill’s reputation as a city that values recreational opportunities for everyone, particularly those residents who have special needs,” Mahony said.
He noted that in addition to the Richard W. Riley College of Education’s degree programs and Department of Physical Education, Sport and Human Performance offerings, another program to be impacted is Winthrop Think College, which offers postsecondary education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. Also, Winthrop’s Macfeat Laboratory School, which serves preschool and kindergarten students, would gain a fully inclusive park within a mile of its location on the Winthrop campus.
Officials from Winthrop University, the City of Rock Hill, S.C. and the York County Disabilities Foundation signed an agreement recently to create Miracle Park in Rock Hill.
Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys said Miracle Park won’t have traditional baseball fields and playgrounds. Instead, it will have specially designed fields with inclusive elements that “give every child the chance to play baseball and other sports” and support team membership in the international Miracle League for disabled children. The teams will play on rubberized turf that can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers and provides a safe surface for people with visual impairments and other disabilities.
“For children often unable to join traditional teams, the opportunity to build camaraderie and confidence alongside friends with similar experiences through healthy competition and exercise can be truly life-changing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build lasting memories and life-skills,” Gettys said, adding that the city will manage the day-to-day operation of the park through its Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.
In addition to the Miracle fields, the special needs playground will feature amenities far beyond what is typically required by full ADA compliance. Proposed plans include robust accommodation for those in wheelchairs or people with mobility challenges as well as textures and sensory elements for children with developmental disabilities. A planned on-site café will provide unique and capacity-building opportunities for disabled employees within an environment that will be empowering and build a sense of community.
This story was adapted slightly from the original article appearing on the Winthrop University website.