First Fully Accessible Splash Park Opens in Texas
Posted on 06/19/2017
Morgan's Inspiration Island, the world’s first fully accessible water park, has opened in San Antonio.
But don’t call it a special needs park.
“It’s a park of inclusion,” said Gordon Hartman, founder of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, which owns the park as well as its sister facility, Morgan’s Wonderland.
While the new park, which opened on June 17, might eschew a “special needs” moniker, it was designed to be ultra-accessible.
“Morgan’s Inspiration Island–like Morgan’s Wonderland–will concentrate on inclusion and inspire guests with special needs to do things previously thought not to be in their range of capabilities,” he said. “Those without disabilities and those with, including individuals in wheelchairs, guests with hearing and visual impairments and even guests on ventilators, will be able to play alongside each other and gain a greater appreciation of one another.
Every attraction within Morgan’s Inspiration Island has been carefully designed to incorporate the special needs guests. The park has even designed its own custom waterproof wheelchairs.
“...we recently unveiled with the University of Pittsburgh revolutionary new wheelchairs propelled by compressed air,” said Hartman. “Our guests [with] inexpensive battery-powered wheelchairs can’t afford to get them wet, so we have special Morgan’s Inspiration Island PneuChairs™ available first-come, first served, along with two other waterproof wheelchair models–a push stroller type for guests needing assistance from a caregiver for mobility and a rigid-frame, manual wheelchair for guests who can push themselves. The first PneuChairs to go into service are prototypes that are already undergoing significant improvements.”
Other thoughtful touches include private areas where guests can get in and out of their own mobility devices and into the park-provided waterproof wheelchairs.
The park’s design does not just speak to users with mobility issues. For example, the Rainbow Reef splash pad has super-warmed waters, so patrons with a sensitivity to water temperatures can splash about among the geysers, squirting sea horses and other interactive features.
For peace of mind, the park also outfits all children with waterproof wristbands that incorporate RFID technology, so parents can go to a “Location Station” to easily find their kids.
$17-million tropically-themed facility was inspired by Hartman and his
wife Maggie’s 23-year-old daughter Morgan, who has special needs.
“We decided to call it Morgan’s Inspiration Island because Morgan truly has been the catalyst for every project we’ve pursued to help the special-needs community,” said Hartman.
The facility includes six main elements, including a five-minute River Boat Adventure that floats through a simulated jungle setting. There are also five water play areas: Hang 10 Harbor, Rainbow Reef, Shipwreck Island, Harvey’s Hideaway Bay and Calypso Cove, all with rain trees, waterfalls, pools, geysers, jets, water cannons and tipping buckets.
The park, which broke ground in 2015 and commenced construction in January 2016, is the latest addition to a growing family destination known as Wonderland, Texas. The site includes Morgan’s Wonderland, The Academy at Morgan’s Wonderland school for students with special needs and the Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of TeletonUSA (CRIT USA), a non-profit rehab center for children suffering from neurological, muscular or skeletal disorders and injuries.
“In many ways, creating Morgan’s Inspiration Island feels a lot like it did when our team designed and built Morgan’s Wonderland with a focus on special-needs individuals–it’s never been done before,” said Hartman. “For the past three years, we’ve been collaborating with water park consultants from Texas, Arizona, Florida and Canada as well as local doctors, special-needs therapists, special education teachers, parents and caregivers. We believe Morgan’s Inspiration Island will be tremendously popular because both children and adults in wheelchairs will be able to have fun in the South Texas sun.”
The park is open daily, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., through mid-August,
and will then be open on weekends in late August and
September. Admission is free to anyone with a special need, but
reservations are strongly recommended.
“When Morgan’s Wonderland opened in spring 2010, we really didn’t know what to expect, but the park’s popularity has grown tremendously and encouraged us to add Morgan’s Inspiration Island,” he said. “Now, we’ll have two attractions like none other that everyone – regardless of ability or age – can enjoy. Morgan’s Inspiration Island promises to give individuals with physical or cognitive special needs a place where they can splash and play without barriers.”
For more information, visit www.MorgansWonderland.com.