HARLINGEN — Playtime is nearly here.

City and school officials broke ground at Pendleton Park Tuesday to usher in the second and third all-inclusive playgrounds for special needs children.

The first playground is already under construction at Lon C. Hill Park, and the third will be located at Victor Park. All three playgrounds — the first of their kind in the Rio Grande Valley — should be open by March 1.

Total cost of the playgrounds will be $1.3 million funded by a partnership between the city and the Harlingen Consolidated Intermediate School District. Also providing financial support are the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, Harlingen Sunburst Rotary Club and attorney Rollins Koppel.

At a windswept Pendleton Park, Parks Director Javier Mendez said in designing the projects, the city wanted to make the playgrounds more than merely adequate.

“When we decided to look into building these playgrounds, we didn’t want to just meet the minimum standards, the minimum playground ADA standards, so what we did was we started looking and researching to try to find better ways to try to provide access to special needs kids, people in wheelchairs, kids who are autistic, kids who are deaf and mute,” Mendez said.

“We think that the design that we came up with will meet and give access to all those children,” he added. “And it’s not just children, it’s adults who are in wheelchairs — they can engage with their children in these playgrounds.”

The playgrounds will have several unique features, such as musical instruments which really play, tunnels for children which allow autistic kids to find a quiet spot, and specialized rides which accommodate children who may be in wheelchairs.

“What we’re doing here is a grand partnership with the school board, the school district, with the Thursday Morning Sunburst Rotary Club, with the city and the parks, coming together and doing great things for people,” said Mayor Pro Tem Michael Mezmar.

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