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Where will Bennett’s Village Play Space be located?

In partnership with the City of Charlottesville, Bennett’s Village Play Space will be located at Pen Park. We will greatly expand the current play areas into more than three acres of inclusive, accessible play spaces.  

How much will the project cost?

The total project cost is estimated to be $5-$7 million. We are building the project in phases and hope to eventually include a treehouse, sensory garden, rock garden, splash pad, additional bathrooms and shelter areas, a raised track, as well as numerous accessible and inclusive pieces of play equipment. Phase One will build an accessible treehouse and is estimated to cost $500,000.

Who is the contractor/builder for the project?

The treehouse in Phase One has been designed and will be built by Challenge Access, innovative aerial adventure designers. Challenge Access has built treehouses and ziplines all over the world. As we design future phases, we will select contractors with appropriate experience and expertise for that phase of the project.

Will the park belong to Bennett’s Village, Inc.?

No, the land belongs to the City of Charlottesville, and it will continue to belong to the city and be maintained by Charlottesville’s Parks and Recreation Department. Like many other inclusive play spaces, this is a public-private partnership, with Bennett’s Village raising the funds to design and build this transformative and inclusive play space and the City of Charlottesville providing the land and maintaining it.

Why is the play space so expensive? 

Building structures and play spaces that are truly inclusive costs a lot. Careful planning for accessibility not only affects the physical architecture of Bennett’s Village Play Space but also the materials used. We will be adding features not found on typical playgrounds, such as electrical outlets, to support those who need to charge medical equipment or technology devices. We need to hire experts in inclusive construction and design and use materials that are sustainable, easy to maintain, and support the needs of a wide range of users.  For example, many playgrounds use mulch, but that is not accessible for anyone who uses mobility aids or wheels (such as wheelchairs and strollers.) Instead, we will be using poured-in-place rubber, which is much more expensive but also more inclusive. We will be purchasing playground equipment that is designed for more inclusivity, to accommodate aids like wheelchairs or cochlear implants. Those types of equipment are harder to find and cost more to produce, so the overall costs are higher. Inclusive play structures also cast a larger footprint in order to allow for ramps and other accessible features, which further increases the costs.  

Isn’t there already a playground at Pen Park?

Yes, there is. However, Bennett’s Village Play Space is a transformative project that will expand the current play area to more than three acres. Some elements of the old playground, including the musical playground, will be incorporated into the new space. Other pieces of equipment will be replaced over time with more inclusive elements that allow more people to play side by side. 

Where does the money come from?

Our fundraising comes from charitable foundations, grants, corporate sponsorships, and individual donors. 

Will there be a fence?

We understand that there are community members of all ages who tend to wander off which necessitates designing enclosed, safe spaces. Many families do not come to public parks because so few of them have fences. Our designs call for the addition of a fence or other type of boundary to help keep folks safe, and we are already exploring how a fence will fit into the Phase One project. 

When will Bennett’s Village Play Space be complete?

Bennett’s Village Play Space will be constructed in phases, and the timeline is contingent on our raising the funds for each phase. We have already added a communication board to the space, the first ever in a Charlottesville City park, to help facilitate communication for our nonverbal community members or those who have trouble communicating with each other. Phase One will be an accessible treehouse which we hope to have completed in 2024.  

Is Bennett’s Village named after UVA basketball coach Tony Bennett?

No. Bennett’s Village, Inc. is named after Bennett McClurken-Gibney, a little boy with Spinal Muscular Atrophy who loved to play but could not independently access playgrounds in Charlottesville because they were not designed with kids in wheelchairs in mind. If you happen to know Tony Bennett, make sure he knows about us too!

How can I donate?

Visit our donate page to learn about the many ways you can donate to Bennett’s Village, Inc.

How can I volunteer?

Fill out our contact form to become a part of Bennett’s Village.