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Let freedom swing -- Handicapped-accessible swings installed in DL

Now people in wheelchairs will be able to enjoy swings at two Detroit Lakes playgrounds -- thanks in part to a donation from the Jaycees.

The Detroit Lakes Jaycees donated $7,000 to the city in proceeds from its 2007 water carnival, said Andrew Gag, who was water carnival admiral that year.

"I talked to the city about their needs, and they talked about wanting to be able to accommodate wheelchairs," Gag said.

"So many times I've seen kids in wheelchairs watching other kids swing," said Tom Gulon, parks and arena supervisor for Detroit Lakes. "As I was watching this I thought, 'What a great idea for our community.'"

The city has installed the wheelchair-accessible swings at the playground by the Rec Center and tennis courts near Washington Ballpark, and at the playground near the swimming beach by the Pavilion.

New sidewalks and rubber impact panels have been added to make the sites wheelchair-accessible.

The swings cost between $2,300 and $2,400 each, and are metal platforms with a ramp that drops down to allow a wheelchair to roll on, and goes back up to form a sort of two-sided box with safety chains.

Mary Meyer, a special education teacher at Detroit Lakes High School, said four of her students are in wheelchairs, and love the new swings. The class often makes the short trip to the playground during nice weather.

"Oh my goodness, yes, they enjoy it," she said. "It's kind of a needy group, so this is a good thing."

The swings are part of the city's overall goal of improving accessibility at playgrounds, parks and trails, said Public Works Director Brad Green.

"We want to improve accessibility," he said. "That includes bike trails, walking trails and playgrounds for special needs people. We have great facilities -- we want them used."