Lynne Hermansen
Two residents addressed city council members for another month in a row at the Monday, July 18 council meeting with their frustration over the lack of inclusive and adaptive parks.
Paula Athey said it wasn’t a new topic, there had always been disabled people and the issue had been brought up in 2017 and the Master Park plans hadn’t changed since 2009.
“There are over a thousand students in the school district in the special education programs,” she said. “Just because someone doesn’t have a physical disability doesn’t mean it is not a disability. Why all of a sudden is it on families to get this done. Families are exhausted just trying to keep kids alive. It is hard to plan a park. Why is it on us and not other families.”
Samantha Brandt said she had given public comments at the June 21 meeting and thought there would be updates a month later as promised and there were not.
“I wanted to understand why the 2017 survey was done and not one goal, objective or accomplishment off of the survey was done,”she said. “That was our citizens speaking—they wanted more accessible parks.”
Brandt said she was disappointed when looking up the city goals accessible parks weren’t included.
“Quality of life for Gardner residents would be enhanced by a park everyone can play at,”she said. “We can do better as a city by listening to our citizens.”
Brandt said her daughter is unable to even participate in Gardner Gold events with friends.
“Children deserve to play next to each other,”she said.
During council updates Jason Bruce, parks and rec director, said they had been reaching out to other cities and agencies including the school district to see how they handle implementing inclusion in already established parks.
“Once we get the info we will share,”he said.
Steve Shute, council vice president, said the city needed a game plan for adaptive play areas and possibly accelerate the matter.
Bruce said they were still info seeking to see what others do before proceeding.
“There are a lot of components,” he said.
Shute said they also needed to look at sensory challenges areas too.
Jim Pruetting, city manager, said the challenge had been design and how to approach.
“We are exploring the design build,”he said. “This is things we want to start with and then get a collective effort and public input. We are working on a timeline.”
Shute said he would suggest looking at meeting with different committees in the next two months for infrastructure needs and challenges.
“Having something concrete before the end of the year,”he said. “This has been talked about for several years and we could give the community correct expectations.”
Baldwin said the committees should meet separately before having a joint meeting because they look at different things.
Amy Nasta, deputy city administrator, said accessible playgrounds take a significant and massive economic dent into the city budget.
“Let’s add these components to add something big and meaningful,”she said.