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An Open Letter to Macon County leaders:

An Open Letter:

My name is Kathy Peek. I would like to make you aware of a desperate need/problem we have in Macon County and I hope you can help resolve this. Myself and others in our area, who have either worked with or have family members or friends with Special Needs, have become increasingly aware that Macon County does not have an adequate playground that can accommodate Special Needs children and adults, especially those who require wheelchairs or other mobility assistance devices. Originally, my intent was to request information about the possibility of a wheelchair swing being placed at Wesley s Park for wheelchair-bound individuals to enjoy, but this week, after visiting Wesley s Park, Jay s Playground, Parker Meadows Playground, and Franklin Memorial Park, I realized just how limited to nonexistent playground/recreation opportunities really are to the Special Needs Citizens of Macon County. I love spending time with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren at Wesley s Park and Parker Meadows Playground. My family has enjoyed over 35 years of watching our children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren playing ball at Macon County Rec Park and Parker Meadows. We love that we have these parks available to enjoy, but unfortunately, not everyone can visit or enjoy these playgrounds and parks because of Special Needs. 

Hopefully, we can all work together to make them better, so that our Special Needs Citizens can enjoy them as well. I want to stress, it s not my intent to be critical. I just want to share what I saw when I visited these 4 playgrounds. At Wesley s Park, there were no handicapped/special needs swings. The swing set was designed for 6 swings and there were 2 baby/toddler type swings and 4 regular swings on the top playground.

On the bottom playground, the swing set is designed for 6 swings, but there were only 3 regular swings and the other 3 swings were missing completely. In the restrooms, there are no diaper changing stations, which is necessary for health/santitation reasons, not only for infants but for Special Needs individuals of all ages. It has several typical climber/slide type structures & if the child doesn t have Special Needs and can climb and play on these. The split rail type fencing has fallen down in several areas and the posts were laying on the ground. I wonder if a safety fence would be a better choice. Wesley s Park does have a rubber mat-type ground covering which helps with mobility issues. 

At Jay s Playground, the swing set was designed for 6 swings. It had 1 handicap/special needs type swing, but the safety belt straps were broken; it had 1 baby/toddler type swing, 4 regular swings and 1 of the regular swings was broken. It had a  jungle gym-type climber that was located inside a curbed area filled with chat and it had a bridge/slide type structure located in the grass. The entire rest of this playground was grass and at the entrance, there was a huge water puddle and a muddy entrance (located in low area), all of which results in not being Special Needs friendly. 

Parker Meadows had a swing set that was designed for 4 swings, which had 1 handicap/special needs type swing with a safety latch that wouldn’t latch, 2 regular swings, and 1 swing that was completely missing. The ground covering was a rubber type mulch like stuff that could make it difficult for a Special Needs child. It had some large climbers and slides that are nice, if you don t have Special Needs and are able to climb and play on them. Franklin Memorial Park has several climbers, a see saw, a swing with 4 regular swings located in a curbed area filled with chat, which again is not Special Needs friendly. I understand at the present time, that Macon County Schools serve 670 Special Needs students. 

Macon Citizens Habilities on Lake Emory also serve a large group of Special Needs individuals at their Day Program and Residential Group Homes and I m sure there are others in our County that aren’t enrolled in these two programs. This large group of Macon County Citizens represents intellectual, developmental, physical, sensory issues, balance issues and many other different disabilities and many ability levels, that make it very difficult or even impossible, for them to visit and enjoy a typical playground. 

Every child deserves the opportunity to visit, play and enjoy a playground, regardless of their Special Needs. Just imagine being a child, who is confined to a wheelchair and you go to a typical playground. It looks like a lot of fun, but the swings, monkey bars, slides, merry-go-rounds, etc. were not made for you & the most fun you can have is to sit and watch the other children playing and having fun. This happens not only to wheelchair-bound children, but to many, many children that have various Special Needs. There is a huge misconception that an accessible playground is the same as an All-Inclusive Playground. Simply having accessibility for mobility devices is not the same as an All-Inclusive Playground that makes it possible for ALL children, regardless of their abilities to learn and play together. 

An All-Inclusive Playground has modified equipment to accommodate Special Needs, such as wheelchair swings, wheelchair merry-go rounds, special swings, sensory equipment, lower structures with ramps, and much more. Macon County desperately needs an All-Inclusive/Special Needs Playground and I am asking each of you, board members and council members, to please seriously consider making this happen for the Special Needs Citizens of Macon County. I am not a professional person. I am a wife, Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother and I know there are a lot more people that know much more than I do about these things, but as a Citizen of Macon County, I see a need and I felt I should try to bring awareness to our community about it. There are many different options for All Inclusive Playground equipment and there are many grants available as well. The Franklin Press had a front page article this week about the Whitmire Property and the town deciding to use part of this property for recreational purposes. It would be a great asset for Franklin, if an All-Inclusive Playground/Park was chosen for this property. 

Maybe the town and county could partner together to make this happen? Or maybe Wesley s Park could be updated with modified Special Needs equipment or even better, maybe we could get a totally new All-Inclusive Playground? I don t know what the answer is, but I do know Macon County desperately needs this for our Special Needs Citizens and it would be a great asset to our community. In a Macon County News article dated 10/20/16 about the County approving $113,000 for new equipment and improvements to Wesley s Park, Commissioner Ronnie Beale was quoted as saying,  Wesley s Park is one of the most used facilities in our community and not only are the problems out there a safety concern, but we owe it to our citizens to ensure they have a great place for their children to play.  I agree 100% with Ronnie, but it s time to take it a step further and ensure that ALL children of all abilities have a chance to play, have fun and create happy memories on the playground, including Special Needs Children. Thank you all for your time and consideration of this matter.

which is necessary for health


Kathy Peek 

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