Commission discusses inclusive playground

Contributed photo

An all inclusive playground built by the nonprofit Kendyl and Friends, a foundation for kids and adults with special needs and disabilities.

The Richmond City Commission heard from Crimson Claycomb, the founder of the nonprofit of Kendyl and Friends, at the nearly three hour long workshop meeting Tuesday morning about building an all-inclusive playground in the city for those with disabilities.

Claycomb, whose daughter Kendyl is severely disabled and confined to a wheelchair, began the organization to fundraise and build a playground in which her daughter, her friends and other other disabled children and adults can play on in their hometown of Harrodsburg.

On March 5, Claycomb and other representatives of the foundation spoke to the Richmond Parks and Recreation Board presenting the idea of the playground to them, stating that all that was needed was the parks board and commissions’ approval to begin the project, which would be no cost to the city.

At the time of the meeting, the parks board was not able to take action on the presentation because they were unable to meet quorum. But because of an April 1 deadline for a grant application, which would pay for a big chunk of the project, Claycomb went to the commission to try and get the green light.

“We don't ask you all for a penny, we just ask you all to approve the project and let us do our thing,” she said at the parks board meeting earlier this month. “We know these projects just pop up, and we know that you all didn't budget for that in your budget.”

After her presentation, the commissioners had many questions, and several concerns that were passed on from the parks board.

One of the questions presented by Commissioner Mike Brewer was whether or not this project would require a written contract between the city and the organization.

Claycomb said that in previous instances, she has created a memorandum of agreement for entities that explain what the organization does, what they are responsible for and other details of the project, but that it is not required.

“Since we do 99 percent of the work, we usually don’t make you all sign a contract because the only thing you guys are doing is giving us the permission for us to provide you all with a free playground on your land,” Claycomb said.

Brewer then questioned whether or not this new playground would raise the cost of the city’s liability insurance, to which Claycomb responded that the playground would already fall under the existing insurance, and that at the other five play areas they have built, none of the insurance rates increased.

“I would feel more comfortable having the parks board to make a recommendation, because here is one of the reasons, because I would want them to make it in the context of what we have doesn’t necessarily accommodate what you are proposing,” said Mayor Robert Blythe.

Blythe went on to ask if Claycomb had surveyed the area, to determine its use in the context of people this would serve in the city. She answered stating that they group had in fact contacted all of the city’s schools to see how many students have an individual learning plan, a 504 plan and even the ability to get there.

“I would just like to say that when we build a playground in an area it doesn’t just serve your city, it is all the way around,” she said. “So I am working on every single county that touches Richmond so that way you guys can see a map of this is how many kids we have the availability to serve, and this is how many kids we can serve from this county coming here.”

Commissioner Ed McDaniel said that while he didn’t want to step on anyone's toes, he said that if this proposal went back to the parks board, it would die, and the project could find itself migrating to, and benefiting, the city of Berea.

“I can already tell you that we have been approached by the city of Berea, and they have money that they actually want to give to make this happen in their area, and not here,” Claycomb said.

“The problem is if this goes back to parks and rec, they are going to miss the deadline for this grant,” McDaniel said.

With the idea to place the playground at Irvine McDowell Park, which the city of Richmond owns, Kendyl and Friends would not need the recommendation from the parks board, and the city could approve the go-ahead of the project outright.

“We would love to get parks and rec’s approval, because that is a statement that, yes we have parks and rec to back this up, and they are going to be on board, and we want that,” she said. “However, for grant deadline purposes, we have an opportunity to have a $68,000 head start if this grant got approved. As far as the deadline purpose, that is why you all need to go ahead and make a decision.”

If the city were to apply for the grant, and the project were to fall through, the grant money would go back, explained Claycomb.

Brewer asked if Claycomb were to not do the project in Richmond, if they were going to continue with the project in Berea. She replied stating that that decision relies on the members of the commission.

“You all are going to want to have this to benefit in your area,” she said.

She explained that having this playground is an easy boost in tourism and would benefit the city’s economy, and noted that in her hometown of Harrodsburg, people have come from all over the state and out of the state, and stay for days at a time to be able to experience this playground.

“I only care about Richmond,” McDaniel said. “I would rather see this come to Richmond, than to see it go to Berea.”

Brewer then said that his concern with the location was the limited parking spaces at Irvine McDowell park, and the accessibility to get to the inclusive park because of existing structures at the park.

“That is the other thing that was brought up by the parks board, was accessibility because that sits on an incline,” Robert Minerich, the city’s manager explained. “So there would have to be some survey work done, and actually a ramp built and you would have to go down and around.”

“Understand that my questions are not meant to be negative, but there are a lot of fine points here,” Mayor Blythe said.

“There’s a lot of small details,” Minerich agreed.

Claycomb reiterated that the project would be no cost to the city, and only requires its approval, something that they can give without the recommendation of the parks board.

“We would still want to come back in and make sure that parks and rec was on board, and that we have answered all of their questions,” Claycomb said. “And I don’t mean that to sound negative.”

“The two of you should be like this in the project,” Minerich said interlocking his fingers.

When the article from The Register which covered the presentation at the parks’ board meeting was shared on The Register’s Facebook page, it had only positive comments labeling the project as “great,” “fabulous,” “a great investment,” and community members noting how much they or someone they know would use this playground.

Ken DeGrant, who originally sought out Claycomb to bring the project to the city, said that in piloting the organization in Harrodsburg, the group saw some resistance. But now, with six projects under their belt and letters of recommendation from each city with an inclusive playground, DeGrant thinks that there shouldn’t be any resistance at all in moving forward with the project.

“I am proud of some of the board members being behind this, and all of this is for the right cause and good for the community,” DeGrant said. “It is little risk to them and great benefit to the community...all they are doing is giving up the risk for us to take on the land.”

If the city were to miss the April 1 deadline, it would set the project back a full year, or would require that Kendyl and friends to put extra efforts into fundraising.

“There is grant money, free money that is out there but I think that it could be something that could be fully funded by the community members of Richmond,” DeGrant said. “I think it is still possible without the grant but I think it would be wise to take advantage of the free money that is out there.”

The Richmond City Commission plans to vote on the matter at their next meeting on March 26, 6 p.m., in Richmond City Hall.

To read the former article with more ground information on the group and their discussion at the parks board meeting, visit, https://www.richmondregister.com/news/richmond/richmond-parks-board-discusses-all-inclusive-playground/article_051d4a63-5116-564b-989a-37215f77e70c.html.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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