Together We're Building
A Playground for All

Design and Accessibility


to the playground campaign



Natural play areas | Splash pad | Pre-School and School age playgrounds

New accessible bathrooms | Restored and accessible carousel | Accessible walkways 


Introducing Our CrowdRise Campaign for Accessible Surfacing for New Stewart Park Playground


Surfacing is $20 per square foot. Visit CrowdRise to contribute today!

Community Playground Build


It took a city...

Ithaca and Tompkins County regularly appear in “Top 10 lists”, often as #1 in various categories.

Most Beautiful City in New York State; Most Livable City in New York State; Best College Town in USA: Best Place to Retire in USA; and most recently, the Finger Lakes region was named Best Wine Region in America.

There is, however, a category not represented above that is far more important to our quality of life — one that wholly defines the very heart and soul of our wonderful community: Most Generous. We are a town whose people care deeply for one another. We give of our time and we financially support dozens of not-for-profits that make life here so rich and fulfilling.

In mid-September, The Friends of Stewart Park, a local nonprofit committed to revitalizing Stewart Park, held a Community Build of the area’s first Accessible Playground. For a period of six days, twelve hours a day, and in three shifts a day, over 1,000 volunteers and 45 organizations worked alongside playground design firm Play by Design to create the pre-school sections of a new playground for children of all abilities. This beautifully-designed inclusive playground will dramatically enhance Stewart Park as a regional destination for families, individuals, children of all ages, and visitors. 

One thousand of our neighbors, friends, and colleagues, dug, hauled, sawed, measured, drilled, shoveled, served meals, provided child care, shared their tools, and worked as a team to build the pre-school sections of this new play facility in the city’s historic lakefront park. And all in the spirit of friendship, camaraderie and generosity.

This build was made possible by all those who supported this project financially. To date, the Friends of Stewart Park has raised over $1.6 million dollars toward an original goal of $1.7M needed to build the complete playground, Splash Pad and new accessible bathrooms. $1M of that is being provided to the City of Ithaca in New York State funding through the efforts of Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton. An additional $100,000 will be required for accessible surfacing, a key component of the new Stewart Park playground, as it allows for wheelchairs and walkers to smoothly move across the playground.

We would like to thank every person who generously gave their time and resources. It is you who make this town the very best place to live. We will continue to invite this big-hearted community to financially support the next phase of the Stewart Playground playground to be constructed in the spring of 2019, as well as subsequent initiatives in the Revitalization of Stewart Park, culminating in 2021. 

The list of businesses and organizations who made this week possible follows here. Many others arrived on-site and asked if they could pitch in There was work for all who wished, but we did not in every case record names of the walk-ons. Please know you were equally important and we thank you.

Donation of Materials: Lowes, Cayuga Lumber, Rick’s Rentals, Home Depot, A-Verdi, SDM, Enterprise Products, Buzz Dolph, Bellisario

Food Donors: Wegmans, Just a Taste, Gola, CTB/Ithaca Bakery, Wings Over Ithaca, Jimmy Johns, Tops, Boatyard Grill, Pudgies, Ciao, Just A Taste, AGAVA, Neds, The Apple Farm.

Businesses and Organizations

Ithaca Fire and Rescue, Ithaca Professional Fire Fighters Association, William George Agency, Tompkins Trust Company, Ithaca Youth Bureau, City of Ithaca, T.G. Miller, Cornell University, Trowbridge Wolf Michaels Landscape Architecture, Carpenters Local Union #277, IHS Code Red Robotics, Cascadilla Boat Club, Playground Leadership Committee, Habitat for Humanity, Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority, Inc., Cornell U Phi Sigma Sigma, Racker, Cornell Equestrian, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, Visum Development, Whitham Planning and Design, Cornell NROTC, Miller Mayer, Cornell Women’s Basketball, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cornell Alpha XI Delta, 2018 Miss Fingerlakes Outstanding Teens, The CBORD Group, Discover Cayuga Lake, Cornell Human Resources, Cornell University William T. Keeton House, Cornell Student and Campus Life OVP Teams, Ongweoweh Corp., The Dragon Boat Team, WGA Girls, HOLT Architects, Taitem Engineering, Cornell Lacrosse, Phi Sigma Sigma, William George Agency Volunteers, Alpha Chi Omega, IHS JV Girls Volleyball Team, CFP Care Day, Bethel Grove, Ithaca Crew Team, TST BOCES Staff, CUSD and MBDH, Lambda Upsilon Fraternity, CUBS Group, Cru Cornell, Lowes, Ithaca College Service Saturday


Community Build Photos

Why Does It Matter?

Traditional playgrounds, Stewart Park's included, can make it difficult or even impossible for children with disabilities or mobility impairments to navigate and use the equipment to fully enjoy their playground experience.  

The new Stewart Park Playground will be like no other in the region: innovatively and creatively designed, It will be an accessible playground for children of all abilities.


Through Chelsea's Eyes

Currently, our family becomes separated when we visit the Stewart Park playground. It’s like we are not even there as a family. I can’t bring my daughter Karina to the playground without my husband because I can’t physically carry her for as long as she wants to play.

The new Stewart Park Playground will give Karina independence. An inclusive playspace will mean she can move around freely next to her peers and sisters... This playground will mean no limits - just a place for Karina to be herself, free in her own body.
— Chelsea, a local Ithacan whose daughter Karina uses a wheelchair

Project Leadership

Rick Manning
Executive Director of FSP and Playground Project Manager

Diana Riesman
Chairperson of FSP Board of Directors and Executive Director of the Wharton Studio Museum

Elayne Nicholas
Campaign Manager, FSP

Lucas Raley
Playground Build Coordinator, FSP

The Playground Leadership Committee is comprised of dedicated volunteers and FSP supporters serving in the development capacity of the campaign. Committee members include:

Sally Grubb, Exhibit Coordinator (Retired), Tompkins County Public Library

Greg Hartz, President, Tompkins Trust Company

Laura Hunsinger, Development Executive, Cornell University

Kimberly Michaels, Partner, TWM Landscape Architects & Board Member, FSP

Andy Monroe, Board Member, FSP

Diana Riesman, Board Chair, FSP & Executive Director, Wharton Studio Museum

David Sprague, Co-owner & Founder, Sprague & Jackson

Sarah Wicker, Former Assoc. Dean for Admin., Cornell University Graduate School

The Playground Architects

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Steve Lauzun, President of Parkitects, has been working with FSP on the Stewart Park Playground for more than four years.  He is a Registered Landscape Architect and former design with Leathers and Associates.  Steve works with communities throughout New York State and represents Landscape Structures, the leading manufacturer of high quality playground equipment in the United States.

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Play by Design

Lee Archin and Dave Iannello, Play By Design’s Co-Founders and Designers for Stewart Park for the pre-school play area and other specialized playground features.  Lee and Dave have worked with Leathers and Associates and communities all over the world on community-built playgrounds. Michael Cohen, who specialized in Adult Wellness and Elder Playgrounds is also involved in the project.

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Rusty Keeler, Founder and Designer for Earthplay, works with communities nationally and internationally to design and build natural and adventure playgrounds. Rusty is providing design oversight for the Sand and Music Gardens and guidance to maximize natural play opportunities throughout the playground.

Design and Accessibility

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