EDMONDS — Mika Zimbalist loved going to the park, but being born with cerebral palsy limited his options for playground equipment.
Wood chips would get stuck in his wheelchair. Playing on a swing required lifting him out of the chair and into the seat. When he grew, that was no longer an option.
“We had started noticing, as he was getting older, it was getting harder and harder for us to go to parks where he had something to do,” his mother, Mumtaz Zimbalist, said.
Mika died in February, just before his 11th birthday. Less than a year later, his mother is working with the city of Edmonds, Edmonds Rotary and other families to build the kind of playground he could’ve enjoyed.
“I really wanted to create something to honor him and his legacy, a place that represented his love of the outdoors,” she said. “It’s really important that people know kids with disabilities really benefit from the inclusive environment and other kids benefit from seeing different types of people play.”
Civic Park, the $13.1 million project set to begin in May, will house the playground. The park’s current design includes a spinner toy and wavy walkway, both wheelchair accessible.
David Kaufer, a member of the Edmonds Rotary and owner of a local marketing firm, helped launch Mika’s Playground in November with the goal of raising $400,000 for the play area.
Zimbalist’s vision is for the playground to have at least five wheelchair-accessible activities.
“They’re being used to take this from a really good playground to a great playground,” deputy parks director Shannon Burley said during a City Council meeting earlier this month.
Prior to reaching out to companies and nonprofits, individual donors have kicked in nearly $10,000 to Mika’s Playground, Kaufer said.
“That’s Edmonds right there,” City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said. “As a parent of a child with disabilities, I just love to see that.”
In addition to the inclusive playground, the park will feature a skate park, two sport courts, petanque grove, soccer field, multi-purpose lawn exercise stations, a plaza and more.
Throughout the planning process, parks staff met with members of the Edmonds Petanque Club, local skaters, residents in the park’s neighborhood and other groups for input on the design.
“I can’t think of anybody that’s been left out of the process,” Fraley-Monillas said. “Hats off to (former parks director) Carrie Hite and hats off to Shannon Burley.”
Public outreach led to a revamped tree design after neighbors worried the changing sight lines would ruin views of the waterfront. The city opted for a different set of trees that would still provide shade for the park, but not grow tall enough to impede the Puget Sound sights.
Turning the 8-acre Civic Field into Civic Park has been in the works for years, with the city scraping together $8.8 million in grants, donations and city dollars.
The downtown space used to house the old Edmonds High School. The city bought the land in 2015, after 40 years of renting it from the school district for $1 a year, plus maintenance fees.
In July, the council voted 5-2 to issue a $3.7 million bond covering the rest of the project’s costs.
“It really took everybody coming together for a city of our size to be able to build something like this,” Burley said.