Mom on a mis­sion

Lo­dian pushes for all-in­clu­sive play­ground at park

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Wes Bow­ers NEWS-SENTINEL STAFF WRITER

LODI — The mother of a spe­cial needs child will be speak­ing to the Lodi City Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day, urg­ing city lead­ers to con­sider cre­at­ing an all-in­clu­sive play­ground at a lo­cal park.

Devon VanDyke said when the city’s Parks, Recre­ation and Cul­tural Ser­vices Depart­ment sent out a sur­vey last week ask­ing res­i­dents what they’d like to see at Beck­man Park, she sug­gested mak­ing the ameni­ties wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble.

She said be­cause her son Em­mett Jewell, 4, is in a wheel­chair, she rarely takes him to lo­cal parks be­cause he can’t use a ma­jor­ity of play­ground equip­ment.

Now, she’d like to see one of the city’s ex­ist­ing parks be tran­si­tioned into some­thing chil­dren of all abil­i­ties can en­joy.

“Ev­ery park in Lodi is made for the ‘typ­i­cal’ child,” she said. “It only seems fair we could have one where Em­mett can play, and where all chil­dren can play. When he was younger I could hold him as we went down the slide or we used the swing. Now that he’s older, he’s gained weight and I can’t hold him like I used to.”

The city is cur­rently re­build­ing Candy Cane Park on Holly Drive, and has plans to re­place the play­ground equip­ment at Beck­man Park on West Cen­tury Boule­vard.

Vandyke lives just a few blocks from Emer­son Park on North Hutchins Street. She does not have a par­tic­u­lar park in mind to con­vert to an all-in­clu­sive fa­cil­ity, but would like to see some­thing sim­i­lar to Mag­i­cal Bridge Park in Palo Alto.

Cre­ated by the Mag­i­cal Bridge Foun­da­tion, the park opened in 2015 and has been touted as the na­tion’s most in­no­va­tive and in­clu­sive play­ground, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site.

The park fea­tures slides, swings, carousels and play struc­tures that can ac­com­mo­date chil­dren in wheel­chairs, as well as flat and soft sur­faces, au­di­tory fea­tures and a ramp into the play­ground, among other ameni­ties.

Vandyke be­lieves the city could build an all-in­clu­sive play­ground for as much as $200,000 through Mea­sure L funds.

Mea­sure L, ap­proved by vot­ers last year, raised Lodi’s sales tax from 7.75 cents per dol­lar to 8.25 cents per dol­lar and is es­ti­mated to gen­er­ate $5.2 mil­lion in rev­enue for po­lice, fire, parks and li­brary ser­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to a July Mea­sure L Over­sight Com­mit­tee meet­ing pre­sen­ta­tion, the city an­tic­i­pates spend­ing $843,7000 on play­ground re­place­ment and tree main­te­nance dur­ing the 2019-20 fis­cal year.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to abc7news.com in the Bay Area, pri­vate do­na­tions mainly funded the $4 mil­lion Mag­i­cal Bridge play­ground that in­spired Vandyke’s ef­forts.

Ac­cord­ing to www.wsbt.com, the city of Goshen, just out­side South Bend, Ind., re­cently built an in­clu­sive play­ground with fea­tures sim­i­lar to what Vandyke has sug­gested — at the cost of nearly $500,000.

The news sta­tion re­ported that the Goshen com­mu­nity — in­clud­ing in­di­vid­u­als, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions and cor­po­ra­tions — raised more than $400,000 to help pay for the park.

Jeff Hood, PRCS di­rec­tor, said costs for an in­clu­sive play­ground could be as much as $1 mil­lion just for the play equip­ment. Soft sur­faces, fenc­ing and Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act ac­ces­si­bil­ity fea­tures into the park cost an ad­di­tional amount of funds.

If the city had the abil­ity and fund­ing to cre­ate an allinclu­sive play­ground, Hood said Katza­kian Park on West Turner Road would be a con­tender as ADA park­ing spa­ces and side­walks are al­ready in place in its park­ing lot.

Many of the city’s parks can only of­fer on-street park­ing that is not con­ducive to ADA re­quire­ments as there is lit­tle to no room to build park­ing lots.

“(Katza­kian) is a vi­able lo­ca­tion,” Hood said. “The depart­ment sup­ports the con­cept of an all-in­clu­sive play­ground, but the re­al­ity is there’s not enough money to make it hap­pen.”

Vandyke said she has been re­search­ing grant and fund­ing op­tions to help the city ex­plore the idea, adding she will be meet­ing with Hood and other city staff prior to next week’s city coun­cil meet­ing to dis­cuss her ideas.

She said she was will­ing to take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of find­ing out­side grants and do­na­tions and all the leg­work in­volved.

“I just think this is some­thing that’s re­ally im­por­tant for all of our kids,” she said. “Typ­i­cal kids don’t know how to in­ter­act with our kids. If they see a kid with a dis­abil­ity play­ing on a park like this, then they’ll see they can have fun too and that we’re all the same.”

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SENTINEL

Devon VanDyke with her son, Em­mett Jewell, 4, at Emer­son Park in Lodi on Thurs­day. VanDyke is ask­ing the city to cre­ate an in­clu­sive park for chil­dren with spe­cial needs.

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SENTINEL

Devon VanDyke with her son, Em­mett Jewell, 4, at Emer­son Park on Thurs­day. VanDyke is ask­ing the city to cre­ate an in­clu­sive park for chil­dren with spe­cial needs.

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