Louis A. DePasquale Universal Design Playground Open at Danehy Park!


Universal Design Playground

The Universal Design Playground is now open for the Cambridge community to enjoy! Located at Danehy Park between Field Street and the Briston Arms residential complex, the 30,000 square foot play area is the first in Cambridge to fully incorporate Universal Design (UD) - the concept that all parts should be as usable as possible, without changes, by everyone. While many of Cambridge's playgrounds include elements of UD, by constructing a playground that demonstrates UD principles in every feature, the City advocates for a more inclusive way of thinking about built spaces.

In addition to physical accessibility, UD takes sensory, cognitive, and emotional abilities into consideration to create an environment that is welcoming to all people to the greatest extent possible.

The park was designed for children, caregivers, and visitors of all ages and abilities to play, experience and enjoy:
  • The Swing Zone, Spin Zone and Climbing Slope encourage independent and interactive play.
  • The Junior Play area features a train-shaped play structure with climbing features and a double slide.
  • The Senior Play area includes a tower, sliding bars, and a slide. People can access the tower by walking across an elevated bridge, climbing up a ladder, or using sliding bars. Visitors can also use a talk-tube network to send messages to different parts of the structure.
  • Slides have horizontal tubing – a sensory feature that people can feel and hear when sliding.
  • The playground’s Sensory Walk Zone features a pathway designed with bands of crushed stone, concrete, and granite pavers. Whether or not someone uses a mobility device, they will experience tactile and auditory responses from the changing textures. Plantings on either side of the pathway engage the senses of smell, sight, and touch.
  • A music area at the end of the Sensory Walk Zone invites visitors to play rain and chime sounds. Plantings on either side of the pathway engage the senses of smell, sight, and touch.
  • The "Sensory Hilltop" is reached through an accessible, labyrinth-style pathway. The Hilltop's  wooden features, designed by Cambridge artist Mitch Ryerson, are constructed from Black Locust wood, which is resistant to rot and splintering.
  • The "Sensory Hilltop" includes log steppers, a wooden marimba where visitors can experiment with sound, and benches with 3D animal-shapes that invite tactile exploration. In warmer months, a “Scentsation” vine will provide shade and the smell of honeysuckle. 
  • “Pipe Dreams"  is an art-play sculpture that celebrates the industrial legacy of Danehy Park. The tunnel-shaped form, designed by middle and high school students at NuVu Studio in Central Square, has smooth wooden planks that curve, window features, and handholds that invite climbing.
  • Poured in Place (PIP) Rubber Surfacing covers the ground between play structures, the Swing and Spin Zones, the Climbing Slope, and the Sensory Hilltop, creating a cushioned, non-slip surface that provides protection from falls and is smooth for people who use mobility devices.

In February, reproductions of colorful paintings by Dominic Michael Killiany, a prolific local artist with autism, will enliven the playground’s walls and the interior of a play structure. The playground’s Splash Pad, which includes junior and senior play features and seating for observers, will provide waterplay fun in the summer months.

In addition to inclusive play features, sustainability was a priority in design. Natural and recycled materials were incorporated as much as possible, and over 60 new trees were planted across the play area. The “Sensory Hilltop’s” Black Locust wood was harvested from trees removed during the City’s Glacken Slope Restoration Project.

The UD Playground was designed by the firm Weston & Sampson Design Studio. A Focus Group, comprised of Cambridge parents, abutters, local educators, and City staff, worked closely with the design team to solicit community feedback and develop park concepts.

The Cambridge City Council voted on November 15, 2021 to name the playground after City Manager Louis A. DePasquale in recognition of his commitment to bringing the Universal Design Playground to fruition and to ensuring community involvement and engagement throughout the process. A dedication ceremony will be held in the spring.

For more information about the Universal Design Playground, visit  www.cambridgema.gov/UDPlayground.