YORK – With a resounding yes, all the members of the York City Council gave permission to a group of local residents who want to build a large, all-inclusive playground at Mincks Park.
The group has already begun fundraising for the project and has also consulted with experts who design and build these types of playgrounds for all ages and all abilities.
Getting the council’s permission was the first step to really getting the project kicked off the ground.
Now that they have the land on which to build it, they can move further with the next steps.
An all-inclusive playground addresses the needs of all people – of all ages, abilities, disabilities, with the objective to include everyone. They are thoughtfully designed to provide a safe place where children (and adults alike) of all abilities can play together and they are developmentally appropriate for everyone. They take away the barriers to exclusion, both physical and social, providing a sensory-rich experience for all.
Cheree Folts, director of York Parks and Recreation, told the council she attended a conference last fall and posted online what she had learned about inclusive playgrounds.
“Twenty-four hours later, a committee was formed and they started moving forward,” Folts said.
The group had intended to bring this to the council last March – but the pandemic postponed that conversation.
“Now, we are asking for permission to use a portion of Mincks Park for this project,” Folts said.
Mincks Park is the large, many-acre space in northeast York where the family aquatic center is located.
It is also being proposed that the new inclusive playground be named Peyton Parker Lane – after local, inspirational youngsters. Those youngsters were Peyton and Parker Hoffman, the sons of Chad and Julie Hoffman, and Lane McDaniel, the son of April and Brian McDaniel.
Paul Jaekel told the council that he’s had a dream for this type of playground “for all ages and all people.” He said his son was born with a condition, “and he has overcome many obstacles in his life and he will continue to. Yes, we formed a committee . . . I believe we don’t, right now, have an adequate place for all kids to play with each other. This needs to change. One thing I have learned, by being his dad, is that me and his mother are his voice and I want to be a voice for those the park is being named after as well. Their parents laid the foundation for people such as us and we as a committee want permission to build our dream park.”
Julie Hoffman addressed the council, saying the group of York County residents working on this project had been “diligent” in making it happen. “This park will light up this community, it will be amazing! We already have an account open (to receive donations) with the York Community Foundation and we have received donations.”
Hoffman talked about her sons and how their positive interaction with other youngsters, in all aspects, enriched their lives and the lives of others.
April McDaniel said the same and stressed that recreational opportunities afforded to families with special needs children are much less – but that could be remedied if this inclusive park/playground is built.
“This will be that place that families can go, it will be a destination,” McDaniel said. “This is a chance to put York on the map, as a place for everyone, an inclusive place for those with disabilities and this would be wonderful. We are asking you to consider letting us build this park.”
The group, early on, consulted with an expert in designing and constructing all-inclusive playgrounds/parks – none other than Eric Crouch (the owner of Crouch Recreation) who also happens to be one of the all-time greats in Husker football fame and the 2001 recipient of the Heisman Trophy.
Crouch was on hand for this week’s city council meeting, as well.
“You can really feel the community involvement tonight,” Crouch said to the council – gesturing to the dozens of supporters in the audience.
He explained that this is his 17th year in building inclusive playgrounds and he has already made a visit to the site of the future playground.
And Crouch explained how everyone will benefit from this type of a recreational offering.
“I encourage as many community members as possible to get involved in this,” Crouch said. “I’m here to do all I can. This playground could possibly be done in phases – if all the money is raised right away, that’s great too. But we could start with some structures and grow as the community grows. I’m here to support this – it would be a great addition to your community. Many others will come here and move here for this, for their kids. This is an opportunity to break down barriers about how we talk about inclusivity, and it could teach the community a lot as well.”
“You’ve already been out to look at Mincks Park,” said Mayor Barry Redfern.
“I thought the location is great, with its amenities and it is flat,” Crouch said. “There is a lot of great space and there is already great equipment out there to build off of. If you say yes, we could move into the design phase. That park is a really great place for this for a lot of reasons.”
“There would be features for adults, able bodied and disabled, for grandmas and grandpas, children of all abilities, everyone,” Folts said.
All the parks in the city are ADA compliant – but they aren’t all necessarily easy to utilize.
“We are asking to let them move into Phase 2 with design and then fundraising is Phase 3,” Folts said.
The council agreed – and it is full steam ahead with the next phases.
If someone would like to make a donation for this project, they can mail donations to the York Community Foundation at 603 North Lincoln Avenue, York, NE 68467 or they can go to yorkcommunityfoundation.org (click on the giving tab on the left side of the page, scroll down to the bottom and click on donation). If making a donation for this project, it is important to note it is for the Peyton Parker Lane on checks and online.