Inclusive Playgrounds

Variety believes that playgrounds should be thrilling for all children! The majority of playgrounds throughout Iowa do not offer adaptations for children with special needs. In 2014, Variety provided the City of Des Moines with its first inclusive playground, the Ashley Okland Variety Star Playground, in memory of Young Variety Board Member, Ashley Okland. Providing a playground for children of all abilities to play together helps promote play, healthy physical activity and learning for all children. Outdoor play experiences provide the perfect opportunity to support inclusive play by creating awareness, breaking down barriers and fostering friendships.


Based on the positive feedback and the success of the Ashley Okland Variety Star Playground, Variety recognized the need and desire for all-inclusive playgrounds in other Iowa communities. Variety is working to bring the Star Playground concept to additional communities throughout the state.

For more information on Variety Star Playgrounds and how you can help, please contact Executive Director Sheri McMichael.

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Variety Star Playground at Noelridge Park (Cedar Rapids)

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A $475,000 capital campaign to provide a 9,600 square foot all-inclusive Variety Star Playground at Noelridge Park on the Northeast side of Cedar Rapids was completed in the spring of 2017. Variety broke ground on Cedar Rapids' first all-inclusive playground in May and opened the Variety Star Playground to a large crowd in October.



Ashley Okland Star Playground (Des Moines)

ashley okland variety star playground

In 2014, Variety provided the City of Des Moines with its first all-inclusive playground, the Ashley Okland Variety Star Playground. Variety’s flagship playground is located within Ewing Park on the southeast side of Des Moines and has become a destination playground. A visit to the Ashley Okland Variety Star Playground is an adventure for the whole family to enjoy. It features many different play elements and is designed for children of all ages and abilities to enjoy.

Variety Star Playground at Riverview Park (Des Moines)

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The Variety Star Playground at Riverview Park in Des Moines is Variety’s third and most recent inclusive playground in Iowa. This 14,500 square foot playground, Variety’s largest to date, pays homage to the Riverview Amusement Park that resided in this location from 1915 to 1978. The playground equipment was modeled after former Riverview amusement rides like the Wild Mouse, and features Ferris wheel-shaped climbing bars and a miniature funhouse. The Variety Star Playground at Riverview Park addresses the needs of every child and encourages children, adults and families to experience the benefits of play together. The playground features three distinct areas with equipment that are age-appropriate for children 6-23 months, 2-5 years and 6-12 years old. Some of the inclusive amenities that the playground offers include:

  • Rubberized safety surface that improves accessibility and softens falls
  • Swings with adaptive seats and harnesses that provide additional support
  • Ramps throughout the playground so children who use mobility devices can access all of the features
  • Equipment at heights that is accessible by wheelchair
  • Large flat swings with rubber bumpers that allow children with sensory disorders to lay across them and enjoy the calming to-and-fro motion
  • A merry-go-round with high backed seats and transfer points from a wheelchair or a walker
  • Two zip lines that include one with a molded bucket seat and a snap-in-place harness
  • An adaptive see-saw, accessible glider, sensory components and more inclusive features