City of Lakeland

Experts have found that encouraging social interactive play builds physical, emotional, social and cognitive development for children. With this in mind, the City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation Department in Florida opened Common Ground in 2009, its first inclusive playground featuring unique play experiences for children of varying physical and cognitive abilities. The park features over 25,000 square feet of synthetic turf play zones to connect barrier-free play elements and edging to ensure kids remain as safe as possible. In the shape of a butterfly, Common Ground provides play opportunity for all kids including over 17,000 children with physical and cognitive challenges in the Lakeland community. Thousands of volunteers donated their time and fundraised for four years to make it a reality. Community partnerships and collaborations collected over $1.8 million dollars to fund Common Ground. All four Lakeland Rotary Clubs sponsored community runs. Butterflies in Flight, a public art project, raised awareness and dollars. State, county and municipal government matched funds with grants and in kind support.

Common Ground encourages social interactive play between children of varying abilities. It places children side by side and face to face in chairs, on sticks, on feet, with braces or with out. Play zones challenge physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development through meditative, interactive, exploratory, and imaginative play. Most importantly Common Ground brings children of varying abilities together and encourages acceptance and understanding of differences.