California JPIACalifornia Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) member, the City of Arroyo Grande, in partnership with the Arroyo Grande Valley Kiwanis Club, recently opened the Kiwanis Inclusive Playground. The playground, formerly known as Elm Street Park Playground, the first of its kind in the nation, incorporates four of the five National Demonstration Site (NDS) designations.

The inclusive playground includes the following NDS designations:

  • “NatureGrounds,” integrates manufactured play equipment and the living landscape to create richer play experiences for children.
    • The city worked with Arroyo Grande “In Bloom,” a local non-profit, to incorporate native plants into the design and installation.
  • “Play-On Tech” creates play environments that align with national standards for youth physical activity and provides fun, physical activities for children to enjoy.
  • The “7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design” creates universally designed play environments that increase the “playability” for people of diverse abilities, age, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic status.
    • The playground features “poured-in-place” rubber surfacing, providing opportunities for independence and multi-generational interaction.
    • The playground also includes multi-sensory (auditory, visual, tactile) stimuli through a variety of play activities.
  • Outdoor Adult Fitness Park provides a variety of meaningful moderate to vigorous physical activity.

The Arroyo Grande city council initially approved the addition of inclusive playground amenities, to be sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Arroyo Grande Valley 2015. Since that time, the club had been fundraising for the project until Recreation Services Director Sheridan Bohlken learned of a Proposition 68 per capita grant program and was able to match the grant program with the project. After an extensive design period and series of public meetings, the grant was awarded to the city. The council then approved the project design, allocated the remaining funds, and the city began work on the installation of the inclusive playground in the fall of 2022.

The project was funded by a state grant awarded through California Proposition 68 in the amount of $177,952, a donation in the amount of $21,000 from the Kiwanis Club of Arroyo Grande Valley, and the remaining funds from the city sales tax fund that supports ADA access throughout the community.

“I applaud our city council for adopting a goal for inclusion, diversity, equity, and justice. Having this direction from our council for city projects, in all areas of services we provide, was powerful for this project to move forward with unanimous support,” said Bohlken. “Of course, having the grant secured provided the platform for the project to be developed.”

The city held three community meetings to get feedback from stakeholders regarding playground priorities to provide inclusive play for all. Residents requested play equipment for small children as well as adult fitness equipment and shade.

The finished playground has been a tremendous success, with city staff receiving positive feedback from community members. Bohlken has seen residents throughout the community and the region use the one-of-a-kind park.

If your agency is thinking of upgrading a playground to make it more inclusive, Bohlken offered these tips:

  • Have your city council provide project direction and share input on your project from the very beginning.
  • Be creative – look for grant funding and see if local groups can also assist.
  • Understand the specifics of new design elements so you can be prepared for additional costs, if any.
  • Ensure your community stakeholders provide input and feedback so everyone aligns with the vision for the park.
  • Work with reputable companies who will work with you to ensure their products succeed in your environment.

“The City of Arroyo Grande is a leader in offering unique and cutting-edge services to their community,” said Senior Risk Manager Tim Karcz. “Many of these offerings, including this new inclusive playground, bring the community together with enhanced opportunities for play.”

Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 120 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at