Universally Accessible Treehouse Fosters Connections

June 27, 2024, Department, by Emma Jones, CTRS

0724 health and wellness 410

For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

Simonds Park in Burlington, Massachusetts, is the community’s flagship park as it features a variety of amenities and is centrally located for community access. Throughout the years, improvements and additions have been made to the park, the most recent of which is the universally accessible treehouse. Burlington Parks and Recreation officially opened the amenity on November 19, 2022. The universally accessible treehouse is the first of its kind in a public park in Massachusetts. Following are four short stories highlighting how the treehouse connected the community in its inaugural year. Each story demonstrates why the treehouse is where community grows in Burlington.

Summertime Family Fun

On a summer evening in early June, several families strolled through Simonds Park. They were there to attend the summer family connection event offered by Burlington Parks and Recreation’s Therapeutic Recreation Division. The event consisted of a pizza party in the treehouse and an art activity. Each family enjoyed a pizza dinner during sunset. Families were heard chatting with one another and getting to know other families in their community. Dinner was followed by a family art project of designing their own treehouse. Laughter, creativity and connection filled the treehouse that evening as the sun set on a gathering place for all generations to enjoy time together.

Club Simonds

Club Simonds, an inclusive kindergarten through fourth grade summer program, welcomes 100 participants on average per week throughout the summer. The program uses every area of Simonds Park for activity space. The park’s amenities most utilized by Club Simonds include multiuse fields, sport courts, a playground and a wading pool. The addition of the treehouse offered a unique program space with its platform nestled in between oak trees with 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. Club Simonds utilized the space to play small group games, run nature activities and construct art projects. Staff members noted participants appearing more relaxed and focused when participating in activities at the treehouse. The treehouse is providing youth participants and community members alike the opportunity to experience the benefits of being in nature while recreating from totally new heights!

Culture Night

The treehouse was the perfect backdrop for the Culture Night hosted by the Girl Scouts of Burlington, Meghna and Gwyneth, in partnership with Burlington Parks and Recreation. The Culture Night was planned and implemented in its entirety by the Girl Scouts for their Silver Award. The event featured booths representing various cultures. Attendees were able to visit each booth and connect with other community members throughout the evening. Participants were encouraged to place a pin on a world map posted on the treehouse to represent their culture. The dynamic setup of the treehouse served as an ideal setting for this educational event focused on spreading knowledge of the cultures within the community.

Connecting Families

A local family visited the treehouse together on a fall day. One member of this family has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease. The universally accessible treehouse provided an environment for this young family to share in a recreational activity together. The entire treehouse structure meets ADA compliance, complete with an expansive ramping system and turnaround platforms leading up to the treehouse. Accessible spaces are key to the success of communities everywhere. The treehouse is broadening access to recreation in Burlington.

These short stories only begin to highlight the way the universally accessible treehouse at Simonds Park has increased community growth. If you ever find yourself in Burlington, Massachusetts, be sure to stop by the treehouse to witness the community impact for yourself. The treehouse has fundamentally changed parks and recreation in the community for the better.

SEE ALSO: Universal Accessibility Infuses Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Park,” Scott Roller, Parks & Recreation, August 2016, Vol. 51, Iss. 8.

Emma Jones, CTRS, is Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at Burlington Parks and Recreation.