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New play area helps kids get a-head

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Young visitors to the ABQ Bio Park Zoo can now enjoy the newly renovated Colores Play Area, which opened to the public Tuesday morning.

The playground, which is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, was designed by Cedar Crest-based company ExerPlay and features one of the tallest playground slides in the state, according to company president Dan Gardiner. It also has several sensory and tactile features, including a wall with several marbles built into it, as well as life-like figures of small animals hidden throughout the playground.

Children and parents play in the new nature-themed Colores Play Area, which is also in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

“When we watched (the old playground) get torn down, it just broke my son’s heart,” said Thomas Guzman, who was visiting the new playground with his children, Sebastian and Bella, on Tuesday. “But then we walked by here, we watched them build it, and right away, he was like, ‘Can we go play?'”

The old playground greatly needed updates, said James T. “JT” Allen, chief executive of the BioPark. It was better suited for indoors, and was ill-equipped to deal with outdoor wear and tear, costing the city between $50,000 and $75,000 a year in maintenance and repairs.

“From what we were spending on maintenance, this will earn our money back, just from the maintenance savings, in about eight years,” said Allen.

The new playground cost $512,000, which came from voter-approved general obligation bonds and the city’s capital implementation program, according to a news release.

Mayor Richard Berry said that the playground will contribute to the BioPark’s goal of not only providing entertainment, but also educating children in science.

“It’s about making sure that we are raising this next generation of stewards,” he said.

Allen also emphasized education as a goal of the BioPark, saying he hopes that kids participating in classes at the zoo will be able to use the playground to supplement lessons. For example, he said the playground’s telescope is perfect for viewing the nearby giraffe exhibit and taking note of each individual animal’s unique spots, a topic covered in classes.

“We want to educate kids about all life,” Allen said. “And when you incorporate play, kids learn better.”

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