Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland transforms an abandoned rock quarry into an outdoor oasis for those who suffer from cognitive and physical challenges.
Unfortunately, countless children and adults with special needs do not have access to facilities that can help them fully enjoy outdoor recreation,” says philanthropist Gordon Hartman, president and CEO of the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation. “We truly hope Morgan’s Wonderland will begin to change that.”
The inspiration for the park came from Hartman’s 16-year-old daughter Morgan. Her spirit sparked within her father a deep desire to create a haven for those with special needs to enjoy together with their families, care givers and invited friends.
“Inclusion is the overarching objective for Morgan’s Wonderland,” he explains. “Our vision is to play an instrumental role in helping establish more ultra-accessible family fun parks throughout the nation.”
Morgan’s Wonderland, which is completely wheelchair-accessible, features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre fishing lake, special-events centre, amphitheatre, picnic and rest areas.
Signature features include rides that can accommodate wheelchair-bound guests including a carousel, train and off-road adventure, all from Chance Morgan. A cluster of themed spaces include an auto fix-it shop, grocery store and TV station that offer sensory stimulation through colours, lights, sounds and textures. The nearby Garden Sanctuary offers a quiet retreat in the heart of the park, and its semicircular Memorial Wall will be engraved with names of loved ones with special needs that have passed away.
Other features throughout the park include Braille signage, a 3D park model, 18 ADA (American Disability Act)-compliant restrooms, a first-aid station, vending machines and seven acres of free parking. The events centre as well as pavilions and picnic areas can be reserved for birthday parties, family gatherings, fundraisers and other special events.
Morgan’s Wonderland guests are required to pre-register and make a reservation online or by phone before arriving at the park, in order to prevent overcrowding and ensure adequate numbers of staff members and volunteers are on hand to accommodate guests’ needs.
“As guests arrive, they’re assigned RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) wristbands,” explains general manager Dave Force. “Location station monitors are situated throughout the park. By simply scanning their wristband, a member of a group can quickly locate others if they become separated. The wristbands not only provide comfort and security against a child getting lost, but they also help guard against the possibility of a child leaving alone or with a stranger.”
In 2007, the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation was instrumental in the creation of SOAR (Sports Outdoor And Recreation), a non-profit organisation to raise funds for building Morgan’s Wonderland. Construction on the $32 million (€24m) park began in spring 2009.
Morgan’s Wonderland is part of a larger 106-acre sports venue to encourage inclusive recreation whereby individuals of all abilities can play side-by-side. Proceeds from the nearby STAR Soccer Complex go to support the operation and maintenance of Morgan’s Wonderland.