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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / From left, Aaliyah Jah, 7, Emory Wagner, 6, and Lennon Burton, 4, swing together at Gilbert-Stephenson Park in Fort Oglethorpe.

Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, now has a place where all people can play at Gilbert-Stephenson Park.

Construction began last September on the city park's new inclusive playground, which opened in July and recently held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The playground includes components designed for children of all ages and abilities, as well as an "adult fitness zone" with stations for aerobic, muscle-strengthening and core exercises, city Parks and Recreation Director Chris Simpson said.

Other features of the $756,000, city-funded playground include tandem swings, GT Jams musical playground instruments, a Merry-Go-All fully accessible merry-go-round, and a RoxAll SeeSaw with four high-back seats and side rails, he said.

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Fort Oglethorpe's first inclusive playground opens

The playground's solid surface also makes it accessible to children of all abilities, including those in wheelchairs, said Stephanie Rogers, wife of City Councilman Derek Rogers and a member of the playground's planning committee.

Knowing that some children are limited in what they can do at other playgrounds, she and fellow committee members decided to build a more inclusive play space when it became clear that the aging structures of the park's former playground needed to be replaced.

Some playground elements were chosen to appeal to older middle school-age children, a group the committee felt too often gets left out of playground design considerations, Rogers said.

"There's been a lot of people who have really enjoyed it," she said, adding that she's had really positive feedback from parents whose children use wheelchairs or who have children on the autism spectrum. "This was a huge effort by a lot of people that made it so successful."

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508. Follow her on Twitter @emcrisman.

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