RENO – Of all the Reno City meetings to see strong turnout, one would not have anticipated the Reno Parks and Trails Committee meeting to bring more than 31 guests to speak in full support of an all-inclusive park for the City of Reno Tuesday night.
The all-inclusive park would be accessible and stimulating for kids and adults of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability. Building the location, which would enhance Kiwanis Park, would result in changes for accessibility and more equipment for all kids to play on together.
The closest playground of its kind exists is in McKinney, Texas, Reno resident Brooke Summers said. A playground designed for kids of all accessibility would help service at least 1,500 kids with disabilities in Lamar County, with 700 to 800 of those coming from Paris ISD alone, Summers said. She got the information from Kristina Crites, who runs the REACH center in Paris.
However, though 31 people spoke in favor or sent letters to the city voicing their support of the project, the City does not yet have the funding to build the park. The public hearing Tuesday night was intended to chronicle a community desire to build the location, enough to vie for funding from an exclusive Texas Parks and Wildlife grant. Historically, the grant would go towards the community that demonstrates the greatest need or desire for a project such as the playground. The more people who showed up at the meeting, the more likely the playground was to be funded. Reno will compete for the grant alongside other Texas communities with similar populations.
“If anybody’s really passionate about it, you could always call your state representative, email him, whatever. Because the squeaky wheel always gets fixed first. And everybody’s out for these grants right now, all across the state, trying to get these grants out. So whoever, you know, is the highest on the mountain, screaming the loudest is gonna get it, ”City Council member Brandon Thomas said. He had come to the meeting to also throw his support behind the project.
Tearfully at times, residents came one by one to the stadium to share their stories and emphasize how an all-inclusive playground would benefit the community. Many spoke of gravel at Kiwanis Park that made it difficult to use strollers or wheelchairs or even for grandparents to watch children play. Others talked about how children with disabilities often became outcasts among others their age due to a lack of understanding. The discussion in public hearing was joined by letters of support from Representative Gary VanDeaver and Chamber of Commerce President Paul Allen among others.
Following the testimonies, the committee closed the hearing and approved submitting a grant request. It also opened discussion for both the upcoming Summer Celebration Saturday from noon until dark and teased a new Christmas tree for the City’s Christmas in the Park Celebration.
The committee then reopened the initial public hearing to circulate a flier to attendees asking for the community to aid with services, labor, finances or other assistance for building the park. All tangible support pledged helps the point system and increases the likelihood of getting the grant for such a park in Reno. The committee also encouraged attendees who wanted to help or offer suggestions to submit their contact information to City Secretary Tricia Smith at [email protected].
“We just want people to support this project. It’s like everyone else has said here tonight. And they’ve said it perfectly and better than me. This is much needed in our area, in our community and in our city, ”Smith said.
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