published in sb 6/2018
World‘s first ultra-accessible splash park
Opened in June 2017, Morgan‘s Inspiration Island is the world‘s first ultra-accessible splash park. It features five tropically-themed splash pads with numerous get-wet elements and the River Boat Adventure ride. Guests with a physical disability can transfer out of their battery-powered wheelchairs into waterproof wheelchairs for maximum aquatic fun in the sun.
The splash park is the 2017 expansion of the non-profit ‘Morgan’s Wonderland’ theme park in Northeast San Antonio, which was once the Longhorn limestone quarry. An initiative by The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, Morgan’s Wonderland promotes inclusion and helps those with special needs. Completely wheelchair-accessible, the USD 36-million park features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, a 1.3 hectare catch-and-release fishing lake, 1,672 m² special-event center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout the park.
Father of his 24-year-old daughter Morgan living with physical and cognitive challenges, Gordon Hartman recognized the tremendous need for fully accessible outdoor recreational facilities. This inspired him and his wife Maggie in 2007 to create the theme park not only for those with special needs but also for their families, caregivers, friends and the general public.
Free of charge
Often families with special-needs members have great demands on both their financial and emotional resources. Encompassing 10.1 hectares, the unique, colorful, safe and affordable theme park offers fun for all ages and abilities and is free of charge for anyone with a special need. Two years after opening, a global automotive company and provider for mobility solutions for drivers with disabilities became sponsor under a long-term philanthropic agreement with Morgan’s Wonderland. The theme park has welcomed more than 1 million guests from all over the US and 65 countries through park participation and special events.
Design collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh
Guests in wheelchairs may have previously been unable to visit a splash park. At Morgan’s Inspiration Island, they have the opportunity to privately transfer out of their chairs into three types of waterproof chairs – one of them is powered by compressed air and developed by Morgan’s Wonderland in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh. This gives guests the opportunity to enjoy Morgan’s Inspiration Island and not risk damage to their personal, battery-operated wheelchairs.
Generating financial support
Adjacent to the park is the STAR Soccer Complex, a 30 hectare facility for practices, tournaments and league play. Gordon Hartman also launched ‘Soccer for a Cause‘, a grassroots effort to establish pro soccer in San Antonio that led to the creation of the San Antonio Scorpions. The business model is unique to pro sports – utilizing pro soccer to generate financial support for Morgan’s Wonderland and the special-needs community.
The academy, which opened in August 2011, is a unique, nationally-accredited, non-profit learning environment that enables students with special needs aged 12 to 24 to achieve their maximum individual potential. In addition to academic instruction, the academy focuses on equipping students with life skills that will help them become productive adults. Since the academy is located next door to Morgan’s Wonderland, students get to take their physical-fitness classes in a theme park.
Morgan’s Wonderland has partnered with The CRIT (Children’s Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón USA), or CRIT USA. This is a non-profit rehabilitation center for children who are born with or who have suffered neurological, muscular or skeletal disorders and injuries. The CRIT USA center located next to the theme park offers additional rehabilitation opportunities for patients and a recreational outlet for families whose children are undergoing treatment. Typical physical therapy sessions make use of outdoor playground equipment and other attractions at Morgan’s Wonderland.
Throughout the last few years, Longhorn quarry has been transformed into a destination focusing on family entertainment, sports, recreational activities, special events, and education. What is truly remarkable is that everything that happens at Wonderland, Texas, benefits individuals with special needs.