A long drive to Dallas seems almost endless to a young child with disabilities whose only aspiration is to play among his peers. Fantasy Landing in Dallas is the only park close to Tyler that is truly ADA approved.
The TJC project management class is interested in creating a playground for Tyler children who are living with disabilities. They will be the first junior college class in the state to tackle a project of this size. The class consists of Megan Hollis, Teresa Goodwin, Jessica Johnson, and James Giles.
“I have volunteered with Shriner’s Hospital when I worked in Galveston. I have done muscular dystrophy telethons. I have done all the walks, relays. I used to do all that so, to me, when you say a community park, Tyler does have a great park system of course, and we researched it first before we had decided,” said Teresa Goodwin, member of the project management class. “Since it is 2008, yeah, everything is ADA approved but in actuality a child still in a wheelchair could not get up and go play.”
Built in 1989, Fantasy Landing features customized ramps, tennis courts and pull tunnels with bars for children in wheelchairs. Brightly colored brick paths help visually impaired children find their way through the play area. The Dallas Southwest Osteopathic Physicians, Inc. originally provided the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department with a $70,200 grant to underwrite equipment costs and materials for the playground and donated another $50,000 in 1990 to expand it.As a result, TJC’s project management group drew inspiration from Fantasy Landing to create something similar for children here. Although they want the vision of their park be their own, the concept of this park is the same – to allow children with disabilities to be among their peers.
That may not always happen even in Tyler’s ADA accessible parks.
“All the playgrounds that we have are considered ADA accessible. Some of them are older standards that have been grandfathered (due to) the time that they were built,” said John Webb, manager of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department. “The big thing on this type of park or this type of playground is not to design it for children that have mental or physical challenges – but to design it to include them.”
Tyler’s Mayor Barbara Bass said that the new sprayground in Faulkner Park meets the current standards for a handicap-accessible park.
“(Faulkner Park) has this playground for children that is basically flat and water actually comes up so you can roll out on it, if you wanted to,” she said. “The newer ones have been built to the current standards, and then anything we can do to these older ones to add places for other citizens to be able to use that park better would be great.”
Bass added that the city of Tyler has wanted a community-built park. However, she also stated that the city of Tyler had to cut expenses by $4 million dollars this fiscal year, but was happy to say that Tyler has the land if the project management class has the vision.
The park is expected to be a two-year project and is planned to be funded through donations, grant writing, fundraisers and nonprofit organizations.
Don Blaine, the project management class instructor, has spoken with the engineering department at the University of Texas at Tyler to inquire about a drawing of how the park would look.
The park would feature hand rails, ramps, and wheelchair-safe surfaces. The class is considering equipment such as an over-sized see-saw, an easy swing bed, and safety surfaces. This park, however, is a proposal and is open to change.
The vision of the children with disabilities park is to be presented to the city of Tyler’s Park Board on Oct. 27.