Selectmen Appropriate $90K For ‘Truly Adaptive’ ADA Compliant Playground Equipment
The Board of Selectmen at its Monday, August 16, meeting, approved a transfer of $90,000 to assist the Newtown Lions Club in purchasing adaptive playground equipment at Dickinson Park for children with disabilities. The transfer still needs to be approved by the Board of Finance and the Legislative Council, and is expected to be administered by mid-September.
Following the meeting, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told The Newtown Bee that while the town’s playgrounds currently meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, they are not “truly adaptive.”
“Children with different disabilities can get to the playground and be at the playground, so we meet the letter of the law,” said Rosenthal, who noted that there is not much for children with some disabilities, such as being in a wheelchair, to do while they are at the playground. He said that the Lions Club is raising funds for three pieces of adaptive playground equipment.
Rosenthal said that he imagined everyone could relate to being a child and not being tall enough to ride on a ride.
“Then you think about children with disabilities who may never get to that imaginary height,” said Rosenthal. “This equipment will make Newtown not only a nicer place but more inclusive.”
So far, the Lions have raised $42,750 and are expecting a $2,000 price break from playground equipment distributor M.E. O’Brien. With $90,000 from the town and the Parks & Recreation Department offering to do the groundwork and installation, an estimated value of $35,000, that puts the club at $167,750 of its $172,310 goal, with $4,550 left to raise. The town designated its $90,000 contribution from a $915,000 budget surplus.
Most of the rest of the money from the surplus is going into the town’s fund balance.
“This is a positive for an inclusive community,” Rosenthal said. “This creates a nice inclusive area that all children can enjoy. I was happy to propose [the $90,000], and I’m glad the selectmen support it. We had a good budget year, so we saw what we could do to help. I’m glad that we could do what we did. It’s a worthy project.”
According to Lions Club representative Neil Randle, the three items of playground equipment the Lions plan to purchase are the Sway Fun, purchase price $27,670; the We-Go-Swing, $32,745; and the We-Go-Round, $31,170.
“These items best capture the sentiment of fully inclusive play as well as the opportunity for several children and parents to play on the equipment together at one time, with easy access and transfer to and from a wheelchair,” said Randle.
Rosenthal said he didn’t think any other nearby communities offered such equipment on their playgrounds.
In a video on the Newtown Lions’ website, newtownlions.com, project chair Walt Schweikert stated that Newtown is “privileged to have two beautiful parks that are wonderful for most able-bodied children.”
“Unfortunately, we do not have options for children with mobility issues,” said Schweikert. “We want to try and improve the playground with a few more pieces.”
The Lions got the idea for the playground improvements from Schweikert’s granddaughter, Leah Mangino. Mangino was at the playground with her mother, brother, and sister, and noticed that her brother could only go on a swing or up and down a ramp. Mangino wrote a letter to this newspaper suggesting more equipment. Schweikert brought the letter to the Lions, who “loved the idea.”
“We have a wonderful town in Newtown and want to make it as welcoming, accessible, and enjoyable as we can for everyone, not just the able bodied,” said Randle.
Randle said that the Lions were “delighted to hear the outcome” of the Board of Selectmen meeting, and he is hopeful that the Board of Finance and Legislative Council will also give their approvals. He said that, should they approve, the Lions would be able to break ground on the project later this year and complete it in the spring.
“At the same time, we also wish to recognize the enormous and important support of [Director] Amy Mangold and [Assistant Director of Parks] Carl Samuelson at Newtown Parks and Rec, who have been instrumental in identifying the equipment supplier, negotiating a competitive price, and contributing labor for installation and groundwork,” said Randle. “This is a wonderful example of a project fundraising partnership that will bring significant enjoyment to the children of our town.”
Mangold said in the Lions’ video that her department appreciates the Lions helping out with new equipment, “not just for Parks & Recreation but for the whole community,” and that the department would help them meet their goals.
“Our department is completely dedicated to helping the Lions bring the project from the planning to cutting costs with groundwork to maintaining the equipment after it is built,” Mangold said.
Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at email@example.com.