The Very Berry produce stand is among featured attractions at Tatum's Garden playground in Salinas, Cailf.
The Very Berry produce stand is among featured attractions at Tatum's Garden playground in Salinas, Cailf.

SALINAS, Calif. — Grower-shippers and others are helping make Tatum’s Garden, a playground with fruit and vegetable themes, a reality for Salinas children.

Among the attractions:

  • an asparagus climbing forest;
  • a broccoli tree house;
  • a strawberry cottage;
  • an artichoke amphitheater;
  • a spinach harvest rock climbing wall;
  • a berry produce stand;
  • a lettuce maze; and
  • a lettuce triple slide.

The inspiration and namesake is 2½-year-old Tatum Bakker, who has spina bifida. At the Sept. 5 groundbreaking, she wielded a shovel from her wheelchair. The playground on Maryal Drive in Salinas is designed for children in similar situations — and for those who have little in common with her.

“It’s more than just wheelchairs,” said Amanda Bakker, Tatum’s mother. “We call it a fully inclusive playground. It includes children of all abilities and all differing disabilities as well.”

“We do have wheelchair accessibility, which is a nice feature with the rubber surfacing,” Bakker said. “And children with a walker will be able to get around much easier. But we’ve made other accommodations for autistic children. We’ve got decompression areas for kids who may get over stimulated and need to take a break. We’ve got lots of Braille features for visually impaired children and some special features for hearing-impaired children where things vibrate and bounce.”

All that is incorporated into a setting that remains familiar to anyone who’s ever been to a playground.

“There’s really fun, challenging equipment for a typical, able-bodied kid,” Bakker said. “Climbing structures, climbing walls, ropes, monkey bars.”

Tatum’s parents – Shawn Bakker is her father — were inspired by a similar park they saw while on a vacation trip.

As October began, the attractions were built but rubber surfacing — the playground’s most expensive feature — was yet to be installed. Organizers sought volunteers for that work. A grand opening was expected around month’s end.

About $890,000 of the $1.2 million construction cost had been raised. More than 40 industry companies were among the contributors. They include Taylor Farms, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, Growers Express, NH3 Service Co., Holaday Seed Co., Ocean Mist Farms, The Nunes Co., Mann Packing Co., RC Farms and Red Blossom Sales.

Contributions are handled by the nonprofit Salinas Circle for Children. Donations can be made at the Tatum’s Garden website.

“We’re sponsoring the D’Arrigo family picnic area,” said John D’Arrigo, president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California. “We really believe in this playground for all children, but especially for children with special needs.”