By Taylor Nadauld, Daily News staff writer Oct 11, 2017
Moscow resident Katherine Haggard is a full-time wheelchair user and has been for the past five years. That makes taking her 8-year-old daughter to the playground a struggle. At Lena Whitmore Park – a park the city shares with Lena Whitmore Elementary School where Haggard’s daughter attends school – for example, the bark chip ground cover makes maneuvering a manual wheelchair feel like trudging through sand, Haggard said.
Over the summer, part of a wooden playground on the property was determined to be structurally unsound and was removed before the start of school this fall.
Now, Haggard and other Lena Whitmore parents are advocating for the installation of a new school playground in its place – one that meets accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Haggard, as a member of an established playground committee, is helping select future playground equipment to be installed on the property, and she recently joined the school’s Parent Advisory Team, which is currently working to collect money to fund the project.
“Why I joined the whole committee was to advocate for the fact that students with disabilities can play alongside with their peers, not just off in the distance,” Haggard said.
The ground cover issue could be solved by installing a rubber mat material, at an estimated cost of $50,000, PAT President Paula Nuhn said. In addition to the estimated costs of a whole new playground structure, the total cost of the project is between $100,000 and $150,000.
For $25, people can sign up to have a dozen plastic pink flamingos planted on someone’s yard overnight as a surprise. The flamingos stay for 48 hours unless the recipient pays to have them removed early. Recipients are invited to keep the fundraiser going by passing the flock along to someone else.
So far, Nuhn said, everyone who has been flocked has played along and some donations have been well over what the PAT is asking. Nuhn estimates between $700 and $800 has been raised so far. That goes toward the PAT’s lofty goal of $100,000.
There are two playgrounds in Lena Whitmore Park that the city and the school share. Besides the partly-removed wooden structure, which the PAT funded in 1996, a steel structure playground was installed on the property in 2007, Moscow Parks and Recreation Director Dwight Curtis said.
Earlier in the year, city and school district staff met to discuss what should happen to the aging wooden playground structure. Curtis said city staff inquired whether or not the district was interested in just using the newer steel structure, but the district noted a safety benefit of having two playgrounds for the students. Curtis told the Daily News a miscommunication between he and his staff led him to believe the city had offered to pay for half of the new playground and that the district had declined the offer. Curtis later apologized for the miscommunication on behalf of the city.
“There was a communication error on the part of Parks and Recreation that we look forward to remedying,” Curtis said in a statement to the Daily News. “We had contemplated the offer of funding assistance and just recently determined we had not conveyed that message to the school district. It has caused some warranted concern by the school district and those selflessly trying to fundraise and we do apologize for that miscommunication.”
Curtis said the city is looking forward to further discussions about the project to learn how it can partner with the district to fulfill its needs.
Meanwhile, the PAT’s flock fundraiser continues, and it won’t be the last attempt to collect funds for the park.
“We’re just going to do one after the other,” Nuhn said.
Taylor Nadauld can be reached at (208) 883-4630, by email to email@example.com and on Twitter @tnadauldarg.