By Zach Friend
In late June, the Board of Supervisors was taking testimony on the proposed County budget when two children walked up to the microphone. One was 8-year-old Oliver Potts, who often uses a wheelchair to get around. The other was Cleo Roberts, age 10. They came to talk about LEO’s Haven, a proposed playground in the Mid-County area.
“LEO’s Haven will be an inclusive playground, where kids like me can play with their friends,” said Oliver, smiling as he spoke. “All kids need to play!”
It was Cleo’s turn. “Everyone wants the same thing, to be accepted for who they are and have a place to belong,” she said.
Behind each child stood a remarkable woman, residents whom I want to tell you about: Patricia Potts and Mariah Roberts. Each came to the issue from different perspectives – Patricia as Oliver’s mother, and Mariah as someone who wanted to save Chanticleer Park, where LEO’s Haven will be located. Both are incredibly motivated and dedicated to their community, and they have shown us that by joining hands and working together, all things are possible.
Tricia and Mariah are now on the precipice of a goal that seemed impossible when they began their journey two years ago — raising more than $2 million in private funds the build LEO’s Haven, the first all-inclusive playground in Santa Cruz County. The County is committed to matching those funds.
They will likely surpass their goal in September, somewhere between Healdsburg and Santa Cruz, while Mariah is on a 220-mile fundraising bicycle ride with the Sunrise Rotary Club, one of many groups in the community that have stepped forward to help. The Human Race, Bay Federal, Kaiser Permanente, Twin Lakes Church, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Lions Clubs and various hospitality and business groups have all pitched in. The Capitola-Aptos Rotary Club even “honored” me with a roast, donating the proceeds toward LEO’s Haven.
One local woman, Brenda Gutierrez-Baeza, asked for LEO’s Haven donations for her birthday, raising $200. Another contributor is the El Patio de Mi Casa group at Chanticleer Park. Led by teacher Yolanda Provoste-Fuentes, the group has held yard sales fundraisers and often serves food grown at Chanticleer’s community garden at fundraising events for the park.
It really does take a community to build a project like this. It also takes a commitment from County government.
While we have been successful in obtaining grant funding for LEO’s Haven, the County expects to make a significant investment out of the General Fund.
We are still working on identifying those funds. LEO’s Haven at Chanticleer Park is one of the many unmet needs the Board has identified that must be addressed, including additional public safety, mental health and homeless services, parks maintenance and improvements and upgrades to County facilities. Our fiscal prudence has kept us from making cuts to services and programs, but there is more work to be done.
We look forward to continuing to the conversation about how best unmet needs can be addressed, and how we can fulfill commitments to remarkable women like Tricia Potts and Mariah Roberts, and to the generations of children who will benefit from their work. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating them for being on the verge of making LEO’s Haven a reality. To learn more, or to donate, go to www.santacruzplaygroundproject.com.
As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts. Feel free to contact me at 454-2200.