Universal Playground

The Universal Playground is located in Appleton Memorial Park. The Field is located on the corner of Capital Drive and Witzke Blvd.


In late 2001, Lisa Nerenhausen became frustrated because she could not find an accessible place for her daughter Leah to play. Lisa contacted Easter Seals Disability HelpLine, a service in Outagamie County, and voiced her frustrations over the need for an accessible playground in the Fox Valley. Jill Gretzinger, Manager of the Disability HelpLine knew of another parent with similar concerns. Amy Perry was injured in a car accident as a young adult and uses a wheelchair. Amy couldn't take her children to area playgrounds. She was afraid that one of her children would be injured and she would not be able to reach them due to wood chips on the ground and other accessibility barriers.

Jill introduced the two mothers and the team went to work. They formed a committee, held countless meetings, conducted research and raised funds all with one goal in mind-to build a fully accessible playground that accommodates children with disabilities, allowing both disabled and non-disabled children to play together.

Construction of Memorial Park's Universal Playground was completed in May of 2004. The unique design includes ramps and rubber turf to allow wheelchair access. The rubber surface permits positioning close to the equipment, allowing children to play without being taken out of a wheelchair. The teeter-totter and swings have backrests, seatbelts and restraints which provide spinal and neck support. These are just a few of the pieces of playground equipment you will find at the Universal Playground.

"The neatest thing is to see the smile on my daughter's face, because she can play there," Lisa said. "It makes it so much easier that I can strap Leah in and not have to sit with her and hold her...now she can play on her own and be more independent."
Several hundred volunteers joined together to construct the playground, and more than 350 donors contributed over $325,000 in funding for the project. "This was very much a community effort," said Jill. "In addition to Easter Seals Wisconsin, Options for Independent Living, local businesses, parents, community members and even school children were crucial to the project's success."

The playground design integrates a variety of play experiences and challenges while providing for access and needs of persons with physical, sensory or developmental disabilities. Six year old Leah has Mitochrondial Myopathy and cannot stand, crawl or walk due to her low muscle tone. She is developmentally delayed and communicates through hand gestures and facial expressions.
"The universal playground is a wonderful place for non-disabled children to interact with children with disabilities because it teaches tolerance," said Lisa. "Other children encourage Leah and she is able to better interact with her siblings and peers."


Department Contact:
Phone: (920) 832-5905
Fax: (920) 993-3103

Mailing Address:

100 N. Appleton St.

Appleton, WI 54911




Office: Monday - Friday

8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.


"Building communities and enriching lives where we live, work and play."

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