Local mom works to bring special needs park to the area

By Alyssa Donovan

August 18, 2013 Updated Aug 19, 2013 at 9:32 AM CDT

BARTONVILLE, Ill. -- The playground is a place where children can have fun, meet new friends and learn something new.

However, for some families a trip to the park can exclude one of their children.

Neomi Jenne of Bartonville is raising her son James who has special needs.

"He has a brain injury and it results in poor vision cerebral palsy and seizures," said Jenne. "He's pretty delayed so he can't walk or anything like that."

Right now there are not many places for Jenne to take 10-month-old James to play.

That is why she is working to bring an all inclusive park to the area.

"Having it all ramped and having it brightly colored would give him a place for him to see things," said Jenne. "He likes to hear other kids and have a place where they can all get together and play would be great."

While there are many parks in Peoria that are accessible for special needs children, Katie Van Cleve of the Heart of Illinois Special Rec Association said there is a big difference between accessible and usable.

"The law requires playgrounds meet certain accessibility guidelines and sometimes those accessibility guidelines don't work for everybody," said Van Cleve.

The most usable park in the river city is Columbia Park. The structure is brightly colored with ground features for children with all abilities to play. The surface is soft and wheelchair friendly.

However, Stewart Mackay, a special needs park designer and owner of All Inclusive Rec, said that is not enough.

"They're not inclusive. They can't have children in wheelchairs and walkers and grandparents and everybody on top of the playground involved in the structure," said Mackay.

Jenne has received the okay from Bartonville officials to build an all inclusive playground but there is no money to make it happen.

"For a moderate size project you could be looking at a couple hundred thousand dollars," said Mackay.

She said the next step is to find more support from community members, businesses and other donors to make the park a reality.