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Kansas City Zoo opening nation's first all-inclusive playground

Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-15 18:09:52-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's a completely different animal at the Kansas City Zoo.

Construction is underway after months of planning to bring a new play area for kids with special needs to the zoo.

It's a project Variety KC and the Kansas City Zoo have been working on since fall 2017.

"I was so thrilled that the zoo folks listened to us," said Cathleen Flournoy, Variety KC Mother.

Flournoy's 10-year-old daughter, Catie, has cerebral palsy. She said a trip to the zoo used to make Catie feel like a black sheep.

"We visited the zoo and I thought this is just not a place where we can go and spend the whole day and be able to allow her to be able to enjoy it just like our other children," said Flournoy.

Soon, children of all abilities can enjoy a new exploration play area located in the African exhibit between the painted dog and hippo habitats and near the Safari Landing stage.

Through their partnership, Variety KC and the Kansas City Zoo worked together to ensure that the new area is fully inclusive, allowing children of all abilities to play alongside one another.

The new equipment will include a zip line that has companion harnesses so a parent or partner can accompany a child with special needs. There will be an "elephant swing" that is accessible for children with special needs but accommodates multiple children to encourage engagement among all kids on the swing. 

"Catie said 'Mom, I'm finally able to go to the zoo and enjoy it just like everybody else,'" said Flournoy. 

Construction of Variety KC Exploration Play is expected to open May 4.