Board OK's 'We Care' Playground Location

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

Board OKs 'We Care' playground location

Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 6:00 am

A new playground area for children with special needs will be located near the horseshoe pits across the street from Baker Park if all goes as planned.

The New Castle Parks Board met Monday and for the second time in as many meetings, spent nearly an hour discussing the We Care Playground, a $250,000 project being spearheaded by Henry County United Fund Executive Director Kimberly Kilgore.

At the board’s Aug. 1 meeting, Kilgore asked for permission to locate the playground on the east side of S. Main Street, near the New Castle Fire Department’s south side stationhouse and the horseshoe pits. The board didn’t have a quorum present and was unable to vote on the matter, but pledged to do so at their next meeting.

That meeting was Monday, and on a 3 to 1 vote, the board approved Kilgore’s location request.

“I’m glad that three of the four of them were able to see our vision and decided to put it there,” Kilgore said.

A former mayor and a park board comprised of different members approved the location Kilgore proposed for the play area several years ago, but funding fell through and the mini-park wasn’t erected as planned at that time. Kilgore also previously stated that until a location was affirmed, she was unable to apply for grants available for the construction of a playground like the one she is proposing.

Board president Patty Broyles voiced some concerns at the previous meeting about Kilgore’s preferred location. She indicated she wasn’t sure separating the special needs kids from everyone else was a good idea and noted there weren’t any restrooms near the area Kilgore was asking about.

Kilgore said keeping the We Care Playground separate from other park attractions would allow special needs users more time on the equipment. At Monday’s meeting, Kilgore also said she and the people she is working with would assume responsibility for raising the funds needed to construct ADA-compliant restrooms adjacent to the We Care Playground.

Broyles said that while she thinks there is a better location for the equipment, she supports the board’s decision and will work with them to see this project through providing Kilgore is able to come up with the needed funds.

“I will try to go to the next board of works meeting to try to get this passed, because I do not want to stand in the way of this,” Broyles said. “I want to help [Kilgore] in any way I can, because the bottom line is I want ADA equipment and I want it in 2017.”

Broyles also said the parks board intends to seek grants to provide ADA-compliant playground equipment for Osborne Park on the city’s north side to compliment the improvements anticipated for Baker Park on the south side of town.

“The parks board’s goal is to have a safe and welcoming environment for all,” Broyles said.

If the We Care Playground becomes a reality, it will be funded with donations from the private sector. Kilgore said there are several grants she intends to pursue.

“We’ll do grant writing. I have a whole list of companies that offer grants for this type of park, but we needed a location,” Kilgore said. “You can’t do grant writing without a location. I had to be able to tell them where that park was going to go in order to move forward.”

Kilgore hopes she can secure enough funding through grants to make the project feasible, but also gladly accepts donations. Anyone who would like to donate may do by sending a check or money order to Henry County United Fund, 1201 Race St., Suite 103, New Castle, Indiana, 47362. Be sure to write “We Care Park” in the memo line.

The parks board’s endorsement of a site isn’t the only step needed to make the We Care Playground viable. It will next have to be approved by the New Castle Board of Works and then by the city council.

The board also voted to reseal the basketball courts in both Baker and Osborne parks. Mayor Greg York indicated he will have to scrutinize the city budget to find the funding needed to move forward on this work, but pledged he would do his best to make sure the park facilities already in place are maintained as needed.