Tourism, foundation partner to build a sensory playground

Individuals of all abilities soon will have an outdoor inclusive sensory playground to help them develop vital skills, thanks to a partnership announced Monday night between City of London Tourism and the Scott Rose Foundation. The city applied for a state matching grant more than a year ago to build the playground behind Shelter House Number Two at the Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park.

The estimated cost of the project is about $201,000.

“We haven’t received notification of getting that grant, and we’re pretty comfortable it may not be received,” said Chris Robinson, executive director of the tourism commission. “Thankfully, the Scott Rose Foundation has stepped in to pay 50 percent of that.”

The foundation was started in 1984 by London banker and entrepreneur James L. Rose in honor of his son Scott, who was killed in a car wreck in 1983.

“We set up the foundation to help mentally and physically disadvantaged individuals up the age of 30, and we’ve probably spent half a million dollars since Scott’s death helping people throughout the region,” foundation treasurer Lawrence Kuhl said Monday night at the tourism commission meeting.

Kuhl said helping to build a inclusive and sensory playground at Levi Jackson aligns with the foundation’s mission.

“We want to do something more permanent here in Laurel County,” he said. “At one time we built a softball field at the fairgrounds and supported it for a number of years. This playground is designed for autistic children as well as others. We want the handicapped as well as the able-bodied kids to able to interact and do the same things.”

A sensory playground is one that contains equipment/elements, including outdoor musical instruments, that stimulate one of the seven senses – touch, movement, smell, taste, sight, hearing and balance. The equipment is widely considered an ideal choice for children who may be on the autism spectrum or who may have sensory processing orders. The park was designed by Miracle Recreation, a national leader in playground equipment that installed the playgrounds at the Levi Jackson campground and Rotary Park.

The tourism commission thanked Kuhl and the Scott Rose Foundation for helping to fund the playground, and voted unanimously to contribute its half of the funds to get the project underway.

But Kuhl said the foundation wants to help in other areas as well, specifically contributing half the funds for an even larger sensory playground at the London-Laurel County Wellness Park.

The foundation has a vested interest in helping to develop the playground because the wellness park sits on a former coal processing site operated by James Rose, Kuhl said.

The commission plans to meet with Kuhl and a representative from Miracle Recreation to discuss the playground in a special-called meeting in two weeks.