At tonight’s Park Commission meeting, Tammy Conforti made a presentation on her vision of an inclusive, accessible playground in the city of Kenosha. The city of Kenosha has 56 parks, 45 of which contain typical playground equipment. None of them are inclusive. Shown above is one of the four poster boards Conforti had placed around the room for audience members to view. Another is shown at the end of this article.
Conforti stated that she’d like to partner with existing park improvement plans. She’d also like to collaborate with a non-profit organization, or form a non-profit organization of her own. She’s looking for legal advice, too. She called for interested people to join committees; the various committees will do the necessary research.
Conforti will be calling together an informational meeting soon. At that meeting, she’ll be showing the 33-minute DVD she has prepared. At the meeting tonight, she showed two clips from that DVD, one having to do with financial resources, and the other depicting a little girl, Amity, who was present at the meeting. She has spina bifida, and the DVD clip showed the tremendous amount of energy that Amity needs to expend just to slide down a slide once. Conforti wanted to illustrate that for the audience of about 75 people, which included several children in wheelchairs.
The DVD has seven chapters:
- What is an Accessible Playground?
- Why Kenosha Needs One
- What Play Does for Children
- What is a Disability?
- What Should Playground Look Like?
- How Can We Build One in Kenosha?
- How Can I Get Involved?
She stated that she feels this project is achievable. “It will give the citizens of Kenosha a sense of pride, and it will generate revenue from families eating, shopping, and playing in Kenosha. Having an accessible playground will address all the needs of children, their basic right to play.”
Then, Conforti called up Amity and, in an emotional plea, asked for the commissioners’ support. Click here to see the video:
Chairman Michael Orth thanked Conforti for bringing this topic forward because, he said, city staff reviewed the current park plans, and most of the ADA-compliant issues had to do with bathrooms, etc. “There was not a lot there about equipment. The current plan is lacking in this regard. Thank you for bringing forward your ideas. The city can help with equipment. They receive catalogs from manufacturers.” Orth asked that Conforti contact Jeff Warnock, superintendent of parks, directly, to obtain the information his staff has already accumulated.
Several people spoke from the audience, showing their support, including Amity’s mother, her grandmother, and her teacher. Jamie Forsythe, Amity’s mother, thanked the committee and said that she was looking forward to partnering with the commission to “make great things happen.”
Donna Dearden, Amity’s grandmother, said that she spoke to a city engineer who told her that the parks were fully ADA-compliant. She mentioned Wisconsin’s attorney general, Eric Holder’s rules and regulations stating that parks needed to all be compliant by March, 2012. “We are way past that date,” said Dearden.
Margaret Heller commented that she’s been working on saving the Southport Beach House, and she offered that the beach house has a handicapped ramp and ADA-compliant bathrooms. “But, there hasn’t been an upgrade on the playground equipment in the park since I was a little girl, which was about 100 years ago,” she laughingly joked.
Conforti said that it’s a powerful thing to see all children playing together. Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia told her that she’s doing an outstanding job. “As a dad of three healthy sons and two healthy grandchildren, I can’t pretend to know what you parents are going through. It brings tears to my eyes. I give you my blessing and my full support.”
The other two handicapped accessible parks highlighted were Warren Township Park, 17801 W. Washington Street, in Gurnee, Illinois, and Possibility Playground, Upper Lake Park, in Port Washington, Wisconsin.
Watch for further information on the upcoming meeting.
There was one other agenda item approved at the meeting, and that was the request from the World Academy of Arts and Culture to hold their World Congress of Poets in Wolfenbuttel Park on September 15, 2012. They also requested the use of park equipment (two reviewing stands, park benches, and a generator). The committee approved co-sponsorship of the event, as they did last year.