Ankeny Miracle Park – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ankeny Miracle Park

300 NW School St.
Ankeny, Iowa

The Miracle Park in Ankeny is another inclusive playground, meaning it is suitable for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. From the website:

More than 3,500 children with special needs between the ages of 5 and 15 live in Polk, Boone, Dallas and Story counties and more than 800 attend Ankeny Community Schools. Today, there is a lack of recreational facilities to meet the needs of our young special needs population as accessible playgrounds and the ability to participate in sports leagues are virtually non-existent.

Since 2007, Ankeny Parks & Recreation and the Ankeny Kiwanis Club have partnered to offer “Super Kids,” a series of programs designed for our special needs community. We’ve joined together again to create and construct a Miracle Field & All-Inclusive Playground facility specifically designed for children with disabilities. The Miracle League Field & All-Inclusive Playground will be co-located in Hawkeye Park in Ankeny and will provide children with special needs and their families:

  • A non-competitive co-ed baseball league
  • A custom field made of cushioned, rubberized turf that is flat and free from obstacles
  • A network of “Buddies” to teach, assist and protect players during play
  • A 100% accessible playground on a rubberized surface
  • A playground that focuses on maximum “play value” with an emphasis on inclusive play
  • A sensory rich playground experience catering to kids with physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities

As you can see, there was a real need for this in the greater Des Moines area and I am happy to see those needs being met. These are the only two inclusive playgrounds I am aware of, but if you know of others, please comment. I’m sure there are families that would love to hear about them.

Ankeny is a quick drive for us, but I used my navigation to find the park, taking us 20 minutes out of our way. It is by an elementary school and other ball fields, just off Ankeny Blvd. I don’t really know my way around Ankeny, but it was a simple drive with the right directions. There are giant baseballs on top of it so if you get in the right area you can’t miss it. I was told to park in the school parking lot and did not see any other parking. I’m sure it has a parking lot… right? I’ll look next time we go because we will definitely go back. Walking across the playground was not an issue but I did feel a bit weird when the kids came out for recess and clearly wanted to play on the equipment. Several hovered near the edge, waiting to see if the adults would notice, but no one actually broke the invisible barrier to join us. They did have two nice play sets of their own to play on, which will be an added bonus in the summer.

Unfortunately, the bathrooms were closed and Little S had to pee on a tree. He has gotten really good at aiming but stood a little too close to the tree. I think outdoor peeing is an essential skill that should be taught to kids at a young age, but not having a penis of my own I am still learning a few things, too. Back up. Guessing from the size of the building I expect comfortable restrooms with real toilets. I’ll let ya know.

I did not see a place for snacks, but that is another thing we will look for when we return. There may be a concession stand for the ball field. There is a shelter for shade up the hill from the playground and there are awnings over the equipment. I’ve heard several complaints about the lack of shady trees near newer play sets so I feel the need to point out the obvious. Trees bring birds and birds poop on slides. Most park developers are hesitant of too many trees, though, because they have to knock them down to build. Some newer playgrounds have planted trees, but they don’t provide much shade yet. You might want to wear a hat and bring extra sunscreen. I had a pop up tent for my kids that I bought at Goodwill, but I never used it. It was similar to this one, found on Amazon.

There are two playgrounds at Miracle Park, one meant for kids ages 2-5 and another for kids 5-12, as well as a long row of swings for all ages and abilities. I had Sharkboy, Little S and their cousin R with me, ages 3-5, and they all chose the big playground for most of the visit. I’m going to try to describe this to you, but you might need to see it and walk around it to understand. It was a bit like a maze. You can get all the way to the top using ramps and once you are in there doing it it is less confusing, but there are tubes and interesting things to climb on and ramps going in every direction. At least it felt that way to me. The kids had no problem getting around and Goldy caught on quicker than I did. Maybe you have to be under 12 to get around in there.

I don’t like parenting labels like “free range” and “helicopter” because I feel they divide us even more and unnecessarily, but I will say if you are an anxious, hovering parent you will not want to let kids under 5 play on the big play set. I saw young toddlers checking it out and they were fine, but I’m not sure my own heart could take that. There are some very tall slides, an open net for climbing across and some pretty high drop offs. There are also monkey bars at the perfect height for young kids, though, and a lot of fun spinning and climbing toys. There was so much more and I will show some of it in the photographs, but you’ll have to check it out yourself to see everything.

We had a great time and I hope you do, too!

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If you notice the parents to the left it will give you an idea how tall the slides on the right are.

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Little S, age 3, on the monkey bars.

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This is a like a rope bridge, only more rope and less bridge. There is nothing beyond their own skill to keep them from slipping through the net. Of course it was Sharkboy’s favorite place to climb around.

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We had no idea how this was meant to be used so we tried several ideas, including tread mill style.

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Like a regular slide, only noisier.

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Ashley Okland Star Playground – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ashley Okland Star Playground

5300 Indianola Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa

April 21, 2015

The Ashley Okland Star Playground is a park on the southeast side of Des Moines with equipment for all children. including those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Ashley Okland was a realtor that also did volunteer work with Variety before she was murdered in 2011. The park was created in her honor for the children she enjoyed working with and it is a park to be proud of. Goldy and I took four boys on this sunny but windy day and got four stellar reviews.

The playground is large and spread out with different and interesting equipment. It has a clean, rubberized surface, which I appreciate on muddy days like today. The kids can play with little concern of getting dirty. (You know this is not normally a concern of mine, but we have plans tonight!) There are also wide open grassy spaces and a lot of trees for us to check out another day. There is plenty of parking close to the playground and a bathroom up the hill. The women’s restroom smelled recently cleaned and looked tidy. This is a vast improvement over most area parks. There were even real toilets! I might be a little too excited about that, but have you ever tried to get a newly potty trained child to hover over an open hole? It’s frightening for everyone involved. There were two stalls but no changing station. (That’s what blankets on the grass are for, right?) If you want snacks or water bottles be sure to bring them with you. I packed a lunch and we stopped at a convenience store on the way. It’s not too far off of E. 14th, so there are plenty of places to stop, but I realize not everyone has a handy helper to wait in the car.

Here are some photos of Sharkboy, Little S and their play school friends enjoying Ashley Okland Star Playground. There is a lot more to see!

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We had a great time and I hope you do, too.