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Coming & Going: San Antonio opens amusement park for special-needs children

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making fun accessible

On March 3, San Antonio will open an amusement park with a unique mission: to create a play space for individuals with special needs. Billed as the world's first ultra-accessible family fun park, Morgan's Wonderland covers 25 acres and sits on the former site of the Longhorn Quarry, northeast of downtown. The project's inspiration came from Morgan, the special-needs teenage daughter of founder-philanthropist Gordon Hartman, who watched her struggle at birthday parties, playgrounds and pools.

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"The special-needs children come first," Hartman said about the $32 million, three-year construction. "They have an opportunity to do things they've never done before, like ride in a swing or a carousel or sit with their family in a train."

While researching his idea, Hartman sought out sample rides suitable for physically challenged individuals but came up empty, so he prototyped his own. For example, he created an off-road adventure ride that allows children to cruise around a rock-strewn track. The Jeep-like vehicles can accommodate wheelchairs and feature such innovations as sensors that protect passengers with neck problems. Other attractions include swings (three equipped for wheelchairs), a sand circle with four wide paths, a pirate-themed island, a sensory village, a fishing wharf and the Garden Sanctuary, a calming space with art and piped-in music.

"San Antonio now has another venue that complements what's already here, SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas," Hartman said.

The park is free to all special-needs guests; other visitors pay $5. Reservations are required and can be made at 210-637-3434 or http://www.morganswonderland.com. The activities-filled grand opening will be held April 10.

Reporting: Andrea Sachs. Help feed CoGo. Send travel news to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071


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