Creating more inclusive areas for all children to play is driving a handful of Hays CISD students to envision possible upgrades to Kyle area parks.
The proposal, which was part of a feasibility study conducted by the Kyle Area Youth Advisory Council (KAYAC), could call for installing park equipment that caters to all kids, including those who might have disabilities.
Destinee Cabrera, KAYAC vice chairperson, said May 15 the group began researching the project within the past few months. The project was originally the brainchild of former KAYAC vice chairperson Hanna Mallott.
Cabrera said Mallott started the research and passed it down to current KAYAC members. Benjamin White, KAYAC chairperson and a Hays CISD senior, said the current crop of KAYAC members believe the inclusive parks project could be a capstone beneficial to everyone in the community.
“We recognized it would have a big impact,” Cabrera said. “We’re looking at the research and it would be a big issue in Kyle.”
White said KAYAC’s inclusive park model aims to foster interaction among all children, including those with disabilities. One idea involves installation of buddy swings, which can seat two to four people and accommodate wheelchairs.
Some of the benefits KAYAC members found in their research involved giving locals who have children with disabilities a place to go. Along with allowing all children to mingle and interact with each other,
White said the model could also spur traffic to the Kyle area.
Inclusive parks are not common in Central Texas, with only two in Round Rock and Austin. White said KAYAC based much of its research on the existing park, including possible financing avenues to explore for such improvements.
White also cited San Marcos’ unveiling of several inclusive play features at the Children’s Park near Rio Vista Park in mid-May.
“By giving these parks the improvements, it also increases the quality of life,” White said.
KAYAC also used a study it conducted as part of its methodology on the proposed project. Cabrera said KAYAC received 676 responses, and roughly 60 percent believed an all-inclusive park is important.
Several residents commented on the lack of features for children who have mobility issues, along with adequate shade problems at area parks.
The committee also gathered public input, which ranged from suggestions on surfacing improvements to ensuring inclusive parks account for those with physical, mental and sensory disabilities.
Paying for it all, however, could be one of the biggest question marks for the proposal. White said inclusive park equipment is 10 to 15 percent more expensive than traditional features.
KAYAC members suggested a possible public/private partnership to pay for upgrades, with the city partially funding the projects.
Another recommendation called for making the improvements in phases, starting with one or two playground items in each park. Cabrera said a possible starting point could be Gregg-Clarke Park, which KAYAC found was the most visited, according to its survey.
Tracy Sheel, Kyle City Council member, District 2, said May 15 she supported possibly incorporating KAYAC projects within the next decade.
“Inclusivity is really important, especially across the board in many different areas,” said Dex Ellison, Kyle City Council member, District 1.