Miracle League Inclusive Playground Builds a Legacy for Northampton Community Leadership

Miracle League of Northampton Township

The grand re-opening of the Miracle League Municipal Park Inclusive Playground in September 2022 was a milestone for a cherished community gathering space, which now celebrates full accessibility.

In recent conversations with township leaders, Nancy Opalka and Allan Corless, they reflect on the playground project, which was more than five years in the making.

Nancy invested more than 30 years of her career in Parks & Recreation for Northampton Township in Bucks County, PA. She recently retired as Director. “I’m walking away from this role knowing it’s in good hands and that the playground will create more happy memories for generations to come.”

“My love for the Miracle League and the people who lead and volunteer for it was such a driver personally and professionally,” Nancy explains. In addition to volunteering for many years, she began her career as a swimming instructor for young people with special needs.

Allan is a Miracle League Board Member, Vice President of Neshaminy Constructors, and an inclusive baseball and rugby coach. Always motivated by the love of the game, Allan, along with a dedicated group of other board members, helped spearhead the development of the all-inclusive baseball field near the playground in 2012.

The Miracle League of Northampton Township is a non-profit organization supporting over 250 individuals with disabilities across Bucks County and neighboring communities through their baseball, basketball, soccer and bowling programs.

Sometime around 2015, fellow Miracle League board members, Mike Fitzgerald and Brian Damiani, recognized that families would hang out at the existing playground before and after Miracle League baseball games. The playground was originally built in 2004 with the help of General Recreation.

“The chance to make the nearby playground fully accessible and adaptive seemed like the best next step,” says Allan. “And, this was a unique opportunity to revamp and further expand an already bustling spot.”

“When it was time to retrofit and expand, there was no question in my mind who we’d engage,” adds Nancy. “Andy Cush, Will Hemler and the General Recreation team are top-notch, knowledgeable, and so easy to work with.”

“We’d been planning for the playground renovation and expansion in earnest since 2018, anticipating construction in 2020. Once that was done, my plan was to retire,” Nancy recalls. “Well, we all know what happened during that time – and we had to extend our project timeline! I didn’t want to leave with unfinished business.”

In addition to facing COVID-related delays, the project required extensive fundraising, which included applying for and receiving grant funding. Finally, construction began in early 2022 and the community-build for the project was held in spring 2022.

More than 50 local residents and business partners rallied together for the build, which also included some of Nancy’s family. “It was a beautiful day,” says Allan, whose construction company prepared the site to get it ready for the playground installation.

As part of a 130-acre site, the playground is within walking distance of the ADA-accessible baseball field and other multi-purpose fields. About 95 percent of the original equipment remained. With new adaptive play elements from Landscape Structures, an industry-leading and inclusive playground equipment manufacturer, the area was then expanded from about 5,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet. In addition, accessible benches and tables were added. And finally, a new accessible rubber safety surfacing was installed to complete the project.

The playground features provide ample play experiences to deepen sensory, motor, cognitive and social/emotional skills. The Landscape Structures elements include drums and chimes from their Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments line, the Oodle Swing, Roller Table, Global Motion, Rain Sound Wheel, We-Saw, Sensory Play Center, a fully ramped play structure including a Sway Fun Glider and more.

Since the grand re-opening, the playground is drawing people from all over. It’s also becoming a built-in stop for families traveling through the region.

“It was tremendous to close out my career on the completion of the playground. To see the families play and hear how much they love it is amazing,” shares Nancy.

“We also really enjoyed working with General Recreation on the evolution of the playground,” Allan adds. “As a fellow business owner/contractor, you just know when a company has strong leadership. And, it’s very rewarding to see the kids so happy.”

To learn more about designing and developing an inclusive playground for your community, contact your local General Recreation Playground Consultant at 800-726-4793 or sales@gen-rec.com.

Northampton Miracle League Playground
Miracle League Welcome Sign
Playground photo
Inclusive Miracle League Playground photo
Miracle League Playground sponsors
painted miracle league playground photo
inclusive playground image
Ramped Playstructure photo

Thinking About Your Next Project?