City approves playground for special needs children

Warren City Council has granted preliminary approval to a Rotary project that would bring a playground specifically for special needs children to Lacy Park.

According to the playground equipment provider, Landscape Structures, these types of playgrounds are specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum or sensory processing disorders who “find challenges with socialization, communication, play and imagination. Sensory play playgrounds attract children and encourage exploration and discovery, and provide a ‘just-right’ experience for those seeking sensory stimulation.”

City Manager Nancy Freenock said that city staff met with the Rotary Club to discuss setting aside a portion of the park and said that Rotary wished council set aside a part of the park before commencing fundraising.

She said that staff were planning on submitting an application to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in 2019 for rehabilitation of the park and expanded parking and access to the area.

Freenock added that Rotary’s interest is “offered at an appropriate time.”

Adam Meneo, speaking on behalf of Rotary, told council that the organization is currently approaching local businesses and organizations for letters of support. He said letters have been received from numerous entities, including, among others, Bollinger Enterprises, churches, the YMCA and Barber National Institute.

Freenock said that Barber National Institute has built three similar playgrounds in the Erie area.

Mayor Maurice Cashman asked Meneo about the plan for fundraising and timeframe for the project.

Meneo said that they are drafting a capital campaign and have received a commitment from Northwest Bank. He said that they will b approaching others “to get in front of anyone what would like to hear our idea.”

Freenock said the area at Lacy to be set aside would be “somewhat of a fenced in area” and includes equipment that can be placed on the fence.

“The amount is dependent on what you ultimately decide will fit in this footprint,” Freenock said.

Meneo said that they have discussed “doing it in phases” which includes a “fundraising effort to put a new piece of equipment in annually.”