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Autism Society, city plan inclusive playground

Submitted Graphic Horizons Park is planned to be located within Cahoon Park, between the tennis courts and North Union Avenue.

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A local woman with the New Mexico Autism Society is spearheading a concept for an “all-inclusive” park to be developed in cooperation with the City of Roswell Parks and Recreation Department.

“I have three children, one of which is special needs,” said Krista Smith, a board member of the New Mexico Autism Society. “Going to parks and things like that were pretty difficult for us.”

A few years ago, she said, she came across an article about parks designed to accommodate all children, including those diagnosed with autism and other disabilities.

“It was at that point that I realized that we need something like this for our community,” she said.

In March, the Autism Society signed a memorandum of understanding with the city for the development of Horizons Park, to be created within Cahoon Park between the tennis courts and North Union Avenue.

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At this point, the $1.3 million park is envisioned as including a sensory garden to allow children to feel, smell and hear; a music area; a spray pad safe for children with disabilities; a horizontal roller slide that children can pull themselves through; swings for wheelchairs; a fossil dig, a wheelchair-accessible spaceship sway glider; a cozy dome and a sand and water table. Safety surfacing also would be placed throughout the playground. The park also could include an education area.

Under the agreement with the city, the Autism Society will raise the funds and purchase the items for the park, and the Parks and Recreation Department will install the equipment.

Smith said she is now working with Landscape Structures in Cedar Crest, New Mexico, and talking with various community organizations to turn the concept into a reality.

“We do know this will not happen overnight because of the amount of funds it will take to do this project,” she said, adding that others who have created such parks have told her that the project took seven years to complete.

“We would love for it to happen sooner,” she said, “but it is going to take the community to make it happen.”

According to a city news release, the new park will offer city residents and visitors needed options.

“While the Parks and Recreation Department has been working to make new playgrounds it installs accommodating to all children, with or without disabilities, the number of city playgrounds with any significant amount of specialized equipment for those with disabilities remains very limited,” the news release said.

The Horizons Park Facebook page indicates that the Roswell Independent School District was serving 1,751 students diagnosed with disabilities in June 2016.

Smith said fundraising events will occur in the future and that she and others will be working with individuals, businesses and grant funders to raise the money.

Information about the Horizons Park project is found on the New Mexico Autism Society’s website (nmautismsociety.org) or on its dedicated Facebook page (@horizonsparkroswell). Krista Smith can be reached at kristasmith@nmautismsociety.org, 575-840-4626.


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