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Local moms working to open inclusive playground in west Omaha

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Mia Jenkins, director of marketing, explains the process of creating a 20-foot poinsettia tree at Lauritzen Gardens for their holiday show, Merry & Bright.

An Omaha nonprofit is nearing its $1 million goal of creating the first ability-inclusive playground west of 84th Street, which they anticipate opening as soon as May 2023.

In 2018, three Omaha moms created “Imagine Inclusion,” a nonprofit with a mission to create more inclusive spaces that value accessibility regardless of ability.

Imagine Inclusion’s Co-Executive Director Meaghan Walls and Treasurer Lauren Citro met at Children’s Respite Care Center, where Citro’s son, Brody, was attending day care. Walls has a background in engineering and accessible design and was the rehab director at CRCC.


The current Zorinsky Lake playground, the site of the future ability-inclusive playground at Zorinsky Lake.

“We were talking about this problem, and problems have solutions,” Walls said. “We quickly became aware that it was a much bigger issue, and accessible outdoor recreational spaces of all different types are lacking in our community.”

The inclusive park will replace a more than 30-year-old park at 156th and F Streets, near Zorinsky Lake, that does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The existing 3,500-square-foot park will be expanded to 9,500 square feet.

In addition, the playground will have amenities to accommodate those who may have mobility challenges, sensory-related challenges, balance issues, information processing barriers and use a wheelchair or prosthetics.

Although mulch and sand surfacing is ADA-compliant, Citro found it nearly impossible to navigate her son’s wheelchair at accessible Omaha parks and often would resort to carrying him.

“We want to meet minimum ADA standards and then exceed them exponentially,” Citro said. To address this issue, Imagine Inclusion’s park will have rubber surfacing to provide a solid surface for wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

One centerpiece of their project is the We-Go-Swing, which allows multiple people to be on it at once.

“The swing was a huge request, and it took us a few years to find one that met our standards,” Walls said. This is an improvement compared to many standard wheelchair swings that, according to Citro, are “a box with chains separated from the rest of the park.”

park rendering

A rendering shows Imagine Inclusion’s new park, which features rubber surfacing and a We-Go-Swing wheelchair swing.

The group’s philanthropic mission slowed due to flooding in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic, but it made progress in 2021 and 2022. The group credited donation day partnerships with local food franchises, the Sunderland Foundation, the Omaha nonprofit “Mustaches for Kids” and $50,000 allocated through the Omaha City Council’s parks and recreation budget. They also host sponsored community events to draw attention to their cause.

Just over $300,000 still is needed for the park. Imagine Inclusion is preparing for its largest community event, the third annual Illuminate Inclusion drive-through holiday lights show at Zorinsky Lake Park. The family-friendly fundraiser will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 at the water park entrance off 156th Street.

The nonprofit commits to making the event free to attend and inclusive to people of all abilities by eliminating any visual and mobility barriers. Audio descriptions of the light show are provided, and the event is accessible from a vehicle.


From left: Co-founders of the Omaha nonprofit Imagine Inclusion, Meaghan Walls and Lauren Citro, stand for a portrait at the site of the future ability-inclusive playground at Zorinsky Lake on Thursday.

This year, the group has added more lights, three hot chocolate vendors and high school choral groups, who will sing carols throughout the event.

“A big part of aligning this event with our mission was to do everything we can to make it inclusive and accessible at all levels,” Walls said.

Citro said Brody asks her every day when the park will open.

For him, she said, that day can’t come soon enough.

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