The park, constructed 25 years ago, has been a favorite destination of local parents, grandparents and other care-givers. Usage and weather have taken their toll, and the facility no longer meets the requirements and guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Civitan members have received some early pledges of support, and they have initiated a fundraising campaign to raise $224,000 — the anticipated cost of upgrading the park and bringing it up to ADA standards.
The Civitan Club has joined with Don Ledford Automotive Center in one major fundraiser. Tickets are available for a $100 donation, with each of the 1,500 tickets providing a chance to win a 2011 GMC Terrain. There will also be 10 $100 prizes awarded.
The tickets can be purchased from any Civitan Club member or at the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, the Bank of Cleveland at Bradley Square Mall, All-State Insurance-George Gray on Keith Street and at Don Ledford Automotive Center on North Lee Highway.
The HandiPark was originally constructed as a joint project of the Civitan Club and United Way of Bradley County.
In addition to the fundraiser now under way, the club was awarded a $5,000 grant in November as one of 14 programs being assisted by the Healthy Community Initiative of Bradley County.
The once-modern playground currently has outdated slides, swings, ramps and bars, and the decks and pavilion are showing signs of wear and usage.
Through the years, the city of Cleveland has performed some short-term renovation, including the replacement of steel decks with wood because the equipment originally used is no longer being manufactured.
Civitan David Cummings has asked the Cleveland City Council for in-kind services from the Public Works Department. The Civitan representative requested assistance with site preparation, equipment and paving.
Cummings told city officials the upgraded park will be a universal design for children ages 2 to 5 and 6 to 12. The playground is designed primarily for children, but will be beneficial to all ages and abilities.
This updated design will incorporate ramps wide enough for two wheelchairs or walkers to pass, and transfer points from wheelchairs to slides. The wood chips on the play area will be replaced with a bonded rubber surface.
This change in design will be inclusive for children of all ages and abilities and will promote intergenerational activities.
Cummings said the ADA accessibility guidelines require the removal of physical barriers to access in a play environment, emphasizing that all children need a safe, healthy environment where they can play and develop social skills.
The GameTime playground equipment which is being considered for the HandiPark incorporates seven recreation themes in its equipment. They include: Be fair, be included, be smart, be independent, be safe, be active and be comfortable.
The wider ramps will allow side-by-side passage of wheelchairs and walkers. The playground can be equipped with voice tubes where children can communicate during play.
Swings on the playground will hold children snugly in a neutral body position without squeezing.
The focus of the upgraded HandiPark will be safety, comfort and fun.
Civitans emphasize that “inclusive” doesn’t mean inclusive for those with special needs, but inclusive for everyone. Some play equipment will be provided that will not be wheelchair accessible.
The facility will also feature space for caregivers, helpers and playmates. Parents and grandparents will have access to provide supervision and encouragement during play.
A big improvement planned with be a small parking lot, with at least two handicapped parking spaces. This will allow loading and unloading without being parked along the street. Current parking can create a hazardous situation for park visitors.
Sidewalks are also being planned to allow easy access from the parking lot to the playground. The sidewalks will surround the park and will be designed to ADA standards. New benches are also planned.
The Cleveland Civitan Club is part of Civitan International, an association of community service organizations founded in 1917. The local club, organized in 1972, is a nonprofit organization with funds raised going to community programs and projects directed at those with special needs.