Board Discusses Proposed Playground Location

Information reprinted with permission of the Courier Times, local newspaper New Castle, Indiana www.thecouriertimes.com

Board discusses proposed playground location

Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2016 6:00 am

Assuming efforts to raise the funds needed to create a play area for special needs children are eventually successful, a New Castle location for such a facility must be determined.

Kimberly Kilgore, executive director of the Henry County United Fund, and Tami Wagner, who has been involved in Henry County’s Special Olympics in recent years, approached the New Castle Parks Board Monday to make sure everyone involved is on the same page. Kilgore and Wagner are leading the effort to build a play area for people with special needs to be known as the “We Care Playground.”

The board didn’t have a quorum so no decisions were made, but those present did discuss the proposed playground for almost an hour.

Kilgore and Wagner said they would like the nearly $200,000 playground located near New Castle Fire Department No. 3, across Main Street from the southeast quadrant of Baker Park. They also suggested it be fenced in with a magnetic lock to help keep vandalism to a minimum. A telephone number would be provided so that visitors could call to obtain the keypad combination needed to access the area.

Kilgore said a previous mayor and a park board comprised of different members approved the location she was proposing several years ago, but funding for the playground fell through and it wasn’t erected as planned at that time. She also said that until a location has been affirmed she is unable to apply for grants available for the construction of a playground like the one she was proposing.

Parks board president Patty Broyles expressed concern that placing the playground across the street from Baker Park might make the special needs children using it feel alienated from other children and shared a similar concern about the idea of fencing it in. Broyles said the location of the playground was very important and that she wanted to make sure the board made the right decision.

“I think location is a problem,” Broyles said. “We’re putting a lot of money in Baker Park and making it ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) accessible. I feel like with our shelters and the improvements we’re making, all children should feel welcomed and it should be welcoming park.”

Wagner said trying to integrate special needs children with non-special needs children doesn’t work well in a playground setting.

“Kids are rowdy. They play and they run and they have a great time, and they should, but [a special needs child] might walk out of [the proposed play area] with a broken bone. Same thing with a wheelchair. If you have a kid in a wheelchair in line trying to get on a ride and you’ve got five kids who have no mobility issues, guess who is constantly going to be in that swing? It’s not going to be the kid in a wheelchair. ... This park in its original inception is designed so siblings and special needs kids ... have an environment where they can play together.”

Broyles said she understood what Wagner was saying, but reiterated her concern that public perception could be the city was trying to isolate the special needs children rather than allowing them to feel like they are part of the same community of kids as non special needs visitors to the park across the street.

Mayor Greg York asked if a location somewhere near or between the Miracle League baseball diamonds might work. Kilgore and Wagner did not favor such a location, noting that when there are ball games nearby parking is difficult to find and that part of the park is very congested.

Wagner also mentioned she liked the close proximity of the site she and Kilgore were proposing because it is close to the fire department where there were professionals trained in first aid and emergency response who might be needed in the event of an accident or medical emergency.

Kilgore said funding for the park likely won’t be available this year and that she is hopeful enough money will be available for the We Care Playground to become a reality next year.

Broyles said she would ask all members of the parks board to give this matter some thought and be prepared to discuss and possibly act on it when the board next meets. That meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 15 in council chambers on the second floor of the New Castle Municipal Building, 227 N. Main St.