A new playground designed to be welcoming for children with disabilities is planned for Wesley Chapel District Park, and the project got a big boost from some local donors.
The Wesley Chapel Rotary Club, AdventHealth Wesley Chapel and the Lennar Foundation are contributing a combined total of $125,000 to help Pasco County pay for the project.
The Pasco County Commission recognized the groups and their contributions at their meeting on Aug. 6.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore has been involved in the initiative since the beginning.
He noted that he has spent quite a bit of time at the park, coaching teams.
“I realized there was a void of playground equipment for children with special needs,” Moore said.
So, he approached Keith Wiley, director of Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, to discuss the issue.
Wiley shared the same concern.
So, the two men set out to find accessible playgrounds around the country, to serve as a model for an “inclusive” playground in Wesley Chapel.
Moore also reached out to the Wesley Chapel Rotary Club, AdventHealth Wesley Chapel and the Lennar Foundation to ask for their help to make the playground happen.
Wiley and members of those local organizations expressed their thoughts about being part of the project.
With a video and an unofficial schematic, Wiley explained some potential features of the playground.
The new amenity will be built next to the district park’s current playground and be connected with several sidewalk paths as easy access points.
The play space will have rubber flooring for safety. The surface also will offer a smooth transition for those moving about in wheelchairs.
Equipment will be spaced apart to provide enough room for mobility, and built at low levels to provide an easier reach.
Some children may not be able to get out of their wheelchair, Moore said, so there are things they’ll be able to reach from a seated position — for them to play with.
Benches will be shaded by canopies and a butterfly garden is expected to be planted nearby.
“When we look at our brand promise, our brand promise is to feel whole,” said Tyson Davis, interim CEO of AdventHealth Wesley Chapel. “I can’t think of a better way to apply that brand promise in our community, than being a part of this project.”
Chris Casella, president of the Wesley Chapel Rotary Club, added: “It’s about helping them (special needs children) get together in the community with other children [and] have fun just like everyone else.”
Part of the contribution came from a grant from Rotary District 6950, which oversees the Wesley Chapel branch.
During the same meeting, commissioners approved a request from the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department to transfer $215,000 from the Connerton District Park budget to the Wesley Chapel District Park budget, to help pay for the cost of the universally inclusive playground.
With funds in place, the county expects to break ground on the project by early October.
Published August 14, 2019