VACAVILLE – The state Department of Parks and Recreation this week awarded Vacaville’s Play 4 All Park with just over $ 1.7 million to complete both phases of construction.
The grant will be used to construct Phase 2, anticipated to be built by mid-summer 2023, of the new universally accessible park with two new Challenger baseball fields with lighting, multiple-use recreational trail, dog park, parking lot and landscaping throughout the park near the corner of Elmira and Leisure Town roads.
Phase 1 of the park is tentatively scheduled to open Oct. 29. First 5 Solano recently contributed $ 400,000 to help complete Phase 1.
What started out as a vision by one Vacaville Rotarian and local engineer has taken shape into a countywide network of volunteers as the new Play 4 All Park is finally coming to fruition.
“The whole thing has been a struggle,” said Tom Phillippi, president of Phillippi Engineering and leader in the park movement. “With Covid, supply chain problems and inflation we were hit by all of it. All the conversations we had with the state, they were very excited for what we were doing with an all-ability park. “
Another struggle came when Vacaville attorney James Haskell, the secretary of the Play 4 All Park board, was arrested in May and charged with several sex crimes against children, to which he has pleaded not guilty. Phillippi said Haskell was removed from the board. He is now awaiting a September preliminary hearing in Solano Superior Court. Phillippi said the allegations against Haskell have no involvement with his work by him on the park project.
The genesis of the project was a trip to see family.
Phillippi was visiting his daughter in Round Rock, Texas, when he saw a fully adaptive play park and decided Vacaville needed to have one of its own. He returned to tell his fellow Rotarians and others in the community. A plan was hatched and the project grew into a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.
“The state awarded 13 grants and little old Solano received the seventh largest of them,” Phillippi said. “And I’m feeling pretty good about that.”
The Play 4 All Park has a planes, trains and automobiles theme. There is play equipment for all children that is wheelchair compliant. Children can spin, swing, roll, fly, learn, make noises, communicate from place to place, play interactively and more at the various areas of equipment made especially for them. It all comes on soft, rubberized surfaces suitable to help nullify bumps and bruises.
One of the many special elements in the park is the zip line featuring a replica B-17 bomber, honoring Morris and Betty Wasserman, longtime owners of the downtown travel agency, similar to the one “Morry” once flew over Cuba and Europe.
The 10 patio pavilions are being made to look like local businesses around a circular town square where children can ride and walk from place to place. It’ll be known as a small “Vaca Village,” with a small stage for performances. A three flag monument is currently being built in the village to model the one that sits at the end of Main Street.
There will be a vestibule gate system into the park, making it difficult for children to wander off with gates making big clanking noises when opened, commemorative bricks for purchase will be aligned out front and there will be a Wall of Fame for those who donated to the overall project.
Phase 2 will bring two adaptive ball fields and two dog parks, one each for large and small dogs. The ballparks will be able to host Challenger Little League, T-ball and adult wiffleball, Phillippi said. One park will have a replica of Fenway Park’s famed “Green Monster” in Boston in left field and the other will have Oracle Park’s right-field arches like those in San Francisco.
More information on the park is available at play4allvacaville.org.