In Mecca Township, Ohio, there are very few places locals can go to escape the pressures of the pandemic safely. The Mecca Park, to many, is one of those places. It is a modest park, yet it is a popular place to get outdoors within the community. Dog walkers and runners often make use of its one-mile gravel trail. Parents take their kids to play on the playground. And the handful of baseball fields draw large crowds in the summer, hosting pee-wee games, high school games and all ages in between. To most complaint bodies, the park’s design has no major functionality flaws, however, to some non-complaint bodies, it may be completely inaccessible. As a regular visitor of the park, I can testify that though there is a handicap parking space, it is almost never filled, and after a quick look around it is evident that there is a reason. Multiple features of the park make wheelchairs and walking aids impossible to use.
One such feature is that the path that loops around the park is loose gravel. It is also the only surface one can traverse to get from point A to B within the park other than grass and the driveway (also gravel). On these paths, the wheels of any wheelchair would be completely immobilized, forcing them into possibly wet grass and mud. Another thing to consider is the presence of metal grates which could catch wheels and crutches. To fix this problem, I would suggest at least one concrete path with sloped sections for wheelchair access be put in, connecting the main sections of the park. This path would also take the place of the metal grates.
Another issue with the accessibility of the park lies with its restrooms. The park, which is quite large, only has two bathrooms, each with only one stall for men and women. This means that at many points in the park the nearest restroom is a multiple minute walk for able bodied community members, which for some, such as the elderly and disabled, is much too far. On top of this, the design of the bathrooms themselves are very exclusive; the entrance is a tightly walled in U-turn which may not allow wheelchair users to enter. Along with the inclusion of more bathrooms, I would modify the existing bathrooms to get rid of the wall and replace it with a two-way push door with locks as well as add a slight ramp to allow for easy access.
The last major accessibility issue within the park is by far the most common in public spaces. Every seating area in the park has tall ridges around the edges which all serve as an entrance. To most this requires a mere lifting of their leg, but to wheelchair users it is a challenge that may be impossible without assistance. The obvious solution to this problem would be to slope the outside ridges.
While the park, being a mostly outside venue, is conveniently equipped with lots of space to social distance during a pandemic, there are a few design flaws that can be problematic. Most notably, the seating areas under the pavilion offer very little space between tables. This means that on a busy day, people may be hard-pressed to social distance when moving throughout the pavilion, the only truly shaded area in the park. To address this, I would simply better space out the tables, removing some if necessary.
Overall, while being a great place to go during the pandemic, the Mecca Park would need a large overhaul to completely fix all these problems. However, fixing some of the less costly problems such as adding ramps or spacing out tables could be a great start. Larger issues such as the gravel path and lack of handicap friendly restrooms would require time and funding, but would be a positive use of resources for the community.