By Joseph Slacian
WABASH, Ind. – A committee overseeing the creation of an inclusive park in Wabash is about halfway to its $1.7 million goal.
The park is part of the city’s Stellar Project program and will be located on Carroll Street near the existing John Drook Skate Park.
“The construction documents are 90 percent complete,” committee member Shelly Myers said. “Some things have come up, some have gone down … the estimated cost is $1.7 million now.”
Originally, the park was to be completed in phases. But those plans have changed.
“We basically took out the phases,” Myers said, “If we got to a point where we needed to reduce the price, we’re taking out pavilions or pieces of equipment, and we didn’t want to do that. We knew when we started this thing that it was going to be pricey, but we also knew that it was going to be awesome.
“We knew the trade-off was it was going to be a lot of money, but it was going to be worth it in the end.”
Of the $1.7 million needed, the committee has the $200,000 committed through Stellar, as well as the city’s match of $200,000. The group also has received an anonymous $300,000 donation.
“And basically we’ve been running a private campaign where we’ve been talking to businesses and individuals,” Myers said.
Local groups and organizations have been helping. Wellbrooke of Wabash had a car show with proceeds going to the group, she noted, while Northfield’s senior class sold cheerblock T-shirts and raised nearly $1,000. The school’s Key Club sponsored a junior high semiformal, and donated proceeds to the park committee.
“So little things have been happening, just behind the scenes,” Myers said. “But it’s a really cool thing.”
Once the construction design is complete, plans will be sent to prospective donors to seek more help.
Myers said the committee would like to use local workers as much as possible. But she said the panel also realizes that a general contractor specializing in playground equipment probably isn’t available here. But, when a general contractor is selected, the committee wants it to use as many local resources as it can.
Also once the general contractor is selected, a definite price for the park will be known.
“Our hope is (preliminary plans) are high and that the general contractor comes in below that,” she said. “If (prices come in higher) then we have to go back to our plans and make changes.”
Because it is a Stellar project, work must be completed by the end of 2018.
“Our hope is that we can break ground by late spring,” Myers said. “That’s a lot of money in a short amount of time. But we’re pretty optimistic.
“I haven’t talked to anyone yet who hasn’t been supportive.”
There is a need for the inclusive park, not only locally, but around the state of Indiana. The closest inclusive park such as the one planned is in Fort Wayne, near New Haven.
“We’ve talked that this is not a handicapped playground,” Myers said. “We’re not doing this just for kids that have disabilities. We’re meeting a need for kids who don’t get to play together. Kids that are separated by ability, and that’s all. The only thing that separates them are one kid has a visible or invisible disability and the other kid doesn’t. One kid can run and go and play and do their thing on the playground, and the other kid has to sit on the sidelines because they don’t have a place conducive for play.
“Because of that, they’re divided and they don’t get to know one another. And that’s not fair. The kid with the disability didn’t ask to have a disability. They may have been born with it. They may have had something happen. You can have a disability that can happen at any point in time that can happen to any of us.”
The playground, she noted, isn’t just for children either.
“It’s for kids who have parents with a disability and they don’t get to play together,” Myers continued, “or grandparents that have mobility issues. In talking with people who build playgrounds around the state, that’s one of the things that they said is … ‘I’m 23 years old and I’ve never gotten to play on a playground until now,’ or ‘I’ve never been able to play with my grandchild because I can’t get into the play space and they can.’
“That’s a huge impact not only on the kids, but on the family and the community. My saying all along is we’re not just creating a new culture. We’re creating a new normal, so that when they have kids some day it’s normal for them to include everyone and look past the disability.”
The park, about 2 acres in size, will take up the grassy area located next to the skate park, with the focus being the hillside at the site.
“We opted not to do a main play structure,” Myers said. “We tried to make it so it’s not obvious who goes where. You have that gradual incline that goes up and around and back down. Then if you wanted to go down a little part of the hill, you can. If you want to go to the highest part of the hill, if you want to do a little more advanced play you have that option.”
A variety of play structures, capable of being used by those with any ability, will be built into the hillside.
Also included will be a stage for youngsters to put on their own plays, while a musical piece also is planned.
“It’s not just about kids that have mobility issues,” Myers said. “It’s kids who have vision issues, or autism, or sensory issues with touch or smell.”
The park is divided into areas based on ability and age. There is an area for those 2- to 5-years and another for those 5-years and older.
The committee plans a display during the March First Friday event. T-shirts promoting the program, It’s More than a Playground, will be available, as well as more information about the park.
The group also has a Facebook page, It’s More Than a Playground. Its webpage, which includes a link for donations, a video about the park and a catalog with proposed park items, is www.morethanaplayground.com.
See original article here.