A Story of Determination and Collaboration
By Noel Smith
It was November 10, 2010 when the final plans for the 4.5-acre Chanticleer Avenue Park in Live Oak were presented to the community. The County’s redevelopment agency had done the work of planning a park that had all the amenities: a dog park, a bike pump track, a skateboard structure a playground, a community garden, picnic areas, trails, parking and lots of open areas. Within six months Governor Brown had put through legislation that disbanded all the redevelopment agencies in the state, taken their funding, and made what had been a solid plan into an impossible dream.
In 2011, in order to save the park, the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association (chanticleerpark.org) was founded by Mariah Roberts and friends. Working with the county through a system of use permits for its volunteers, the CPNA began to implement parts of the original plan.
At about the same time as the park plan was completed, Oliver Potts was born. Oliver is confined to a wheel chair but he has two older twin sisters who are very active and who don’t (won’t) leave him behind. Their father Bob and mother Patricia (Tricia) Potts found out as Oliver became older that there were no playgrounds in our County that could accommodate both their active twin girls and Oliver in his wheel chair.
In December of 2013 the Potts family attended the opening of Tatum’s Garden, an inclusive playground in Salinas. The children loved being able to play together without barriers, and the family came away with their eyes opened to the need for a fully inclusive playground in their own county of Santa Cruz.
What is an inclusive playground? For families with disabled children, an inclusive playground means the difference between being stuck on the sidelines versus being able to play and have fun with the other kids.
- Provide ALL children the opportunity to learn and develop together.
- Improve physical, cognitive, and social skills.
- Provide sensory-rich play experiences.
- Provide a safe play space for those with cognitive, social, or physical disabilities.
- Reduce or eliminate barriers those with special needs encounter at current playgrounds by using universally accessible design to meet or exceed ADA accessibility requirements.
So the Potts did what 21st Century parents do to get something done, they started the Santa Cruz Playground Project (SCPP) (www.santacruzplaygroundproject.org). The county then connected them with the CPNA and a dream was reborn.
A fourth part of the puzzle is called “Shane’s Inspiration (www.shanesinspiration.org).” Native New Yorkers Catherine Curry-Williams and Scott Williams met and married here in California. Soon, they were blessed with the birth of Shane Alexander. However he diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic disorder afflicting one in 10,000 children. Shane lived only two weeks, but in his short life, Shane inspired his parents, family and friends. The result, “Shane’s Inspiration,” has changed his parents’ lives forever. “Our Vision: Fostering a bias-free world for children with disabilities Our Mission: Creating social inclusion for children with disabilities through the vehicle of inclusive playgrounds and programs.”
Shane’s Inspiration has been so successful that the organization designs and provides the equipment for Inclusive Playgrounds around the world.
Tricia Potts said, “By designing a universally accessible playground we will be able to accommodate individuals such as parents in wheelchairs, grandparents with mobility issues, and special needs children. It’s an exciting project and we are eager to get the word out into the community to let them know it is in the works.”
Recognizing their common goal of expanding access to play, Chanticleer Park Neighbors and SCPP have formed a partnership to bring the playground to the Chanticleer Park site.
On June 9, 2015, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the plan proposed by the Santa Cruz Playground Project to build an inclusive playground at Chanticleer Park. On Sunday, July 26, community members proposed elements they would like to see in the playground design. That data has been turned over to the architects and they will spend the next months designing the playground. Sometime in November, an event revealing the playground design and a kick-off to a major fundraising effort will take place.
According to Mariah Roberts of the CPNA, “When Chanticleer Park lost the redevelopment money, the county fought to get some of it back. We just received word that 500 thousand dollars has been released and is now available. This is in no small part due to the sustained efforts of county workers in pressing their case with the state until success was realized.
“This money will most likely go towards infrastructure costs that will not only benefit the Phase 1 developments of the playground/bathrooms/parking lot.
“We are very excited the timing worked out just perfectly as we now can use those funds to apply for matching grants as well as being able to kick off our public fundraising campaign with a significant chunk of money already in the pot.”
As Tricia Potts says, “Let’s Build a Playground for Everybody!”
Contact Tricia Potts at 831-706-8760, 831-661-0520, firstname.lastname@example.org