Home News Local News City committee approves all-inclusive playground

City committee approves all-inclusive playground

An artist's rendering of the all-inclusive playground that is proposed for Cahoon Park. (Image courtesy of Krista Smith)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The General Services Committee of the city of Roswell on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution to support an all-inclusive playground that likely would be located within Cahoon Park.

The committee is chaired by City Councilman Savino Sanchez. Other members of the committee are Jacob Roebuck, who serves as vice chair, City Councilwoman Angela Moore, Councilman Juan Oropesa and Staff Coordinator Elizabeth Gilbert.

The initiative to develop the playground, which would accommodate all children, including those with autism and disabilities, is being spearheaded by Krista Smith, who is a board member and past president of the New Mexico Autism Society.

The estimated cost of building the play area, which would be called Horizons Park: A Space Without Limits, is $1.3 million. The project will be privately funded through fundraising, grants, sponsorships and private donations.

The proposed location is at Riverside Drive and Union Avenue, which Smith supports because it is a quiet area. Jim Burress, director of Parks and Recreation, also liked the location for its quietness, along with the trees.

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Burress said his support for an all-inclusive park goes back to when he was hired three years ago.

“When I was hired, we did an assessment of everything we had in the parks and set goals,” he said. “We realized we did not have an all-inclusive park.”

Smith said Roswell is behind the times by not having an all-inclusive park. One of Smith’s three children has autism. With an autistic or disabled child, it can be a struggle just to go to the park, she said.

“Children do not know danger,” Smith said. “You have to be by their side.”

She said while there are wheelchair ramps in several of Roswell’s parks, the problem is the ramps often lead to an area that is covered in mulch, which is difficult to navigate in a wheelchair.

Smith said another advantage to the playground is that a therapist could take a child to the park instead of working indoors. If a child should feel uncomfortable outdoors, then the therapist and child could go into a small enclosure called a “cozy dome.”

A flier that Smith handed out at the meeting states the playground will include 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 or “splash pad.”

The playground would have safety surfacing and be completely fenced in, according to the flier.

Smith said she is reaching out to several local organizations for funding. The Eagles Lodge has already made a commitment, she said, and she has scheduled a discussion with the Kiwanis Club and said she has contacted Sen. Tom Udall’s office about grants that may be available.

Smith estimated the playground would take about two years to build.

Moore, who teaches special education in the Roswell Independent School District, said she was excited about the playground and said she is tired of hearing about “what Carlsbad already has.”

The committee’s resolution will now move to the City Council for a vote.

For more information about the Horizons Park, visit the New Mexico Autism Society’s website (nmautismsociety.org) or on its dedicated Facebook page (@horizonsparkroswell). Smith can be reached at kristasmith@nmautismsociety.org or at 575-840-4626.

In other action, the committee heard a presentation from Tim Coughlin, executive director of both the Roswell Boys & Girls Club and the Boys & Girls Club of Sierra Blanca, which is in Ruidoso. Coughlin introduced one of his employees in Roswell, Natasha Welt, who began working for the nonprofit in March.

The Boys & Girls Club is a national program that provides after-school activities regardless of a child’s ability to pay.

Coughlin told the committee about the achievements since the two clubs merged in October and about some of their future plans, most of which were reported in the Roswell Daily Record on June 19.

Not reported in that article is that the club will have a security system with cameras installed next week. Also, the two clubs have a fundraiser planned on Aug. 8 in Ruidoso called a duck race.

He said while both clubs will participate, all money raised in Roswell will stay in Roswell.

The duck race will be held at the municipal pool in Ruidoso. He said the clubs will sell tickets for rubber ducks with a number on them. The ducks will be released into the pool and the pumping system will push them to the finish line. Prizes will be awarded for the ducks with the best finishes.

The General Services Committee also approved library fines and fees and a fee schedule for the Parks and Recreation Department. Those two actions will now go to the City Council for a vote.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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