When Dublin officially opened its new all-abilities playground earlier this month, surprised city officials entered the site to find a wild rabbit already enjoying it.

A gentle harbinger of spring and good vibes on the way for the Imagine Playground at Dublin Sports Grounds? Perhaps, said City Manager Linda Smith.

“We opened the gate and there it was,” she said.

The rabbit soon made way, but the impression was made. Construction on the $5.06 million project, at Dublin Boulevard and Civic Plaza, began in October 2019 and is already a popular draw as the Tri-Valley’s first all-abilities playground.

“It’s a statement that we care about all children,” said Smith, who has an autistic son graduating from Dublin High School this year. “We knew it would be a big hit. I’m hearing lots of kids are really enjoying it. Even I was playing around on some of the equipment, and it was kind of cool.”

Smith said the city wanted to do something “different and unique” with the playground.

“We made sure we created something more than just a neighborhood park,” Smith said, adding she only knew of a couple more playgrounds in the Bay Area having such wide access for children of all abilities.

The playground features two large sculptures called “Conversation,” designed by Tucson-based artist Barbara Grygutis. (Photo by Tony Hicks/Bay City News Foundation)

The area includes an all-access picnic area, more accessible pathways to other park features — including the sports facilities — a new ADA-compliant restroom and better parking access. The playground’s rubber surface is softer on skin and the equipment is easier to get into. Play structures and swings are accessible to people in wheelchairs and there are music-making gadgets for children with sensory needs and even some features meant to help with memory, Smith said.

The city consulted with special education teachers and organizations during the design process.

“City staff and leadership took the time to learn how to create the best environment for inclusive and imaginative play,” said Charlene Sigman, the executive director of School of Imagination and Happy Talkers in Dublin, which offers early education programs for children with special needs. “The equipment was chosen to give children with varying motor skills a playground that they can easily access and an opportunity for them to develop new skills and new friendships while they have fun.”

Sigman said every facet of the playground is designed for a child’s development.

“It’s absolutely beautiful and a real treasure for Dublin and the Bay Area,” she said.

The playground also features the artwork “Conversation,” a pair of oversized heads symbolizing communication, by Barbara Grygutis.

“It’s really a testament to the idea that people communicate in different ways and everyone is unique,” Smith said.