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October 16, 2007 > Always Dream at Central Park

Always Dream at Central Park

By Vidya Pradhan

It's always special for a city's native son or daughter to make it big. When that citizen gives back to the community, it is also a matter of great pride. Fremont's own Kristi Yamaguchi, winner of the 1992 Olympic Gold medal in women's figure skating, has done just that. Yamaguchi's Always Dream Foundation has proposed the creation of a new park playground that will allow children with and without disabilities to easily play together at Fremont's Central Park.

Yamaguchi's desire to create a permanent and unique play environment for children of all abilities grew out of her own experience. Born with club feet, she began figure skating as therapy and discovered her natural talent for it. Yamaguchi started the Always Dream Foundation, a non-profit public charity, in 1996 as a way of providing funding for a diverse range of programs to inspire and embrace the hopes and dreams of children and adolescents.

Over the last few years, the foundation has sponsored summer camps where kids with disabilities bring along an able-bodied 'buddy' to live, compete and play together with them. The experience allows children to learn about each other and is life-changing for its participants.

The Always Dream Foundation has been seeking sites for play facilities along the same theme - allowing kids with disabilities to interact with other kids. Many locations throughout the Bay Area were considered, but the foundation chose Fremont due to its attractive park setting and because of the Yamaguchi family's continued strong connection to the community.

On Sept. 25, the City Council adopted an amendment to the Master Site Development Plan for the new Always Dream playground in Central Park. The new playground is proposed to be located between softball fields 1 and 2, and soccer fields 9 and 10 in the park near Stevenson Blvd.

The playground will include a central picnic and seating area with stepped seating and picnic tables for small gatherings and performances, and many distinct play areas. In addition, the city will provide more parking for disabled visitors and make a nearby restroom wheelchair accessible.

A play village and space for sand and water play will highlight one area of the playground. For 2-5 year olds, another play area will include two bucket swings for toddlers, an age specific play structure, and a merry-go-round with a solid deck area to allow the transfer of a child from a wheelchair, and a seating platform. An area for 5-12 year olds consists of group swings designed to be accessible to children of all abilities, a play structure, and a merry-go-round.

The Foundation will pay for all costs of design and construction. Upon completion, the Foundation will dedicate the entire project to the City of Fremont. The City will then be responsible for ongoing maintenance and repair.

The Always Dream Playground is expected to be completed by the summer of 2008.

For more information regarding the Always Dream playground contact Amy Rakley, Park Planning Manager with the Parks and Recreation department for the City of Fremont at arakley@ci.fremont.ca.us.

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