With the ceremonial cutting of a strip of toilet paper – instead of a normal ribbon – Newark officials and local disability advocates officially opened two new accessible bathrooms at Preston's Playground on Thursday morning.

“This is a great day for Newark and a great day for people with special needs in Newark,” Mayor Jerry Clifton said.

The bathrooms are the final piece of the playground that opened in 2018 as a place where all kids could play together, regardless of their abilities. Located at the base of the Newark Reservoir, the playground was funded by more than $500,000 in community donations and grants.

Deb Buenaga, who helped spearhead the project after seeing her son Preston unable to use normal playgrounds, said accessible bathrooms are crucial for families who have kids with special needs.

“Now they can come and not only play, but they have an area to be able to help the kids who are older and maybe still in diapers. They have an opportunity to be able to change them in a nice bathroom with accessibility. And that's what matters,” Buenaga said. “As parents with typical children, you don't think about things like that. But we think about things like that.”

The new facility is a prefabricated building containing two unisex bathrooms and a small maintenance closet. An electronic timer will lock the bathrooms at dusk and unlock them in the morning.

It also includes two chilled water fountains, a water bottle refilling station and even a fillable water bowl for dogs.

The $125,000 project was funded primarily by grants.

The new facility is the first permanent restroom in a Newark park. While the bathrooms were designed for visitors to Preston's Playground, officials also expect them to be popular among visitors to the reservoir and cyclists and joggers using the broader trail network that connects to the reservoir.

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