“Laura’s Place” named in honor of Recreation Bureau Chief Laura Wetherald
ELLICOTT CITY, MD – In a dedication and remembrance ceremony held on Saturday, June 12, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Department of Recreation & Parks Director A. Raul Delerme dedicated Blandair Regional Park’s new “play-for-all” playground to the memory of former Bureau Chief of Recreation Laura Wetherald. She worked for Howard County Recreation & Parks for 34 years and passed away unexpectedly on February 19, 2021.
Laura was an inspiring person, especially in her advocacy for people with special needs. She was instrumental in the design of this “play-for-all” playground. This wonderful playground is a testament to her hard work and dedication to the disability community and her ability to bring people together through the joy of discovering all that our Recreation & Park have to offer.
Visitors to the playground are greeted by a “Laura’s Place” entrance sign along with a plaque and bench, where they can read about Laura’s life and legacy. During her distinguished career, Laura helped to shape Recreation & Parks’ Therapeutic Recreation program and was a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities throughout her life. Over the years, many Department employees have credited Laura’s mentorship and support for their own impressive careers and for inspiring them to become mentors themselves.
“As a lifelong advocate for recreation and parks, especially for individuals with disabilities, the development of Blandair’s inclusive playground was very important to Laura” said Recreation & Parks Director A. Raul Delerme. “When we discussed how to best pay tribute to her, it felt natural that we name our ‘play-for-all’ playground in her memory and offer visitors a chance to learn about her life and contributions.”
The Laura’s Place playground was designed from the ground up to encourage children of all ability levels to be able to play together and boasts unique features designed to accommodate cognitive, communicative, social/emotional and sensory disabilities. These include a fence that surrounds the playground, non-verbal communication boards donated by the Howard County Autism Society, and other Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant accessibility items.
The playground consists of six unique themed areas: a farm/barn area for zero to two-year-olds, a dinosaur area for two-to five-year-olds, an outer space area and a second play area designated for five to 12-year-olds, and a free notes musical area and a treehouse area designed for all ages. The play space also features sun shades, picnic tables and benches.
Located off MD 175, Blandair Regional Park is quickly becoming one of Howard County's premier destinations for sporting events. In May, the County Executive and Howard County Recreation & Parks cut the ribbon on the park’s third phase – which includes the Laura’s Place playground, bocce and croquet courts, and a backyard games area.
Other Blandair Park amenities include three lighted synthetic turf multipurpose fields with press boxes and bleachers; two synthetic turf baseball fields with shaded bleacher seating; a playground; two pavilions; two restrooms; parking lots; a challenge course; five tennis courts and pathways.
For more information on Blandair Regional Park, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/blandairpark.
To view a photo gallery of the dedication ceremony, visit https://flic.kr/s/aHsmW1b6bS.