HAYS, Kan. (KSNW) – After nearly two years in the making, a Hays Park designed for all ages and abilities broke ground Friday.
The idea behind the Hays Accessible Recreation Complex or Arc Park began after Sarah Meitner, a mom of a child with down syndrome, simply needed a swing that would fit and support her son Abe.
Now, the project has grown far beyond that.
“It was just this little speck of an idea, and the more people we talked to the bigger it grew,” said Sarah Meitner, Parent Advocate and Board President of The Arc of Central Plains.
The Arc of Central Plains found there are nearly 1,400 children and adults with disabilities in the Hays area, but nowhere for those people to safely play outside.
The Hays Arc Park will be the first and only all accessible park of this scope and size in western Kansas, offering safe, boundless play opportunities for everyone in the community and surrounding towns. It will be barrier-free and equipped with ramps.
The project is aimed at providing a space for all ages and abilities to safely play outdoors.
The first phase of the project is to build a $750,000, 15,500 square foot playground.
The playground will display farm and oil themed equipment to reflect the area’s heritage. It will include harnessed-swings, static-free slides, sensory equipment, and unique play equipment. It will also be fenced-in and provide shade.
“The reason we’re doing this project is so that everyone can get the opportunity to play together,” said Brent Kaiser, activities director for The Arc of Central Plains
The construction of the playground will begin in the coming months with dirt work, installation of playground equipment, and concrete work. However, the synthetic flooring is contingent on weather conditions and temperatures and will be put on hold until spring.
The first phase is set to be completed by the end of Spring 2021.
The construction of the playground will be followed by the construction of an all-accessible recirculated splash pad, phase two, and an all-ability turf baseball field with in-ground bases, phase three.
“It helps our folks with disabilities in our community to be more included in everything, not just at a park, but in every aspect of our community,” said Kaiser. “It allows our children to not see differences in people. It allows our children to play side by side.”
The total end cost of the park is projected to reach $1.9 million.
So far, the project has been community-driven. All funds raised have come from grassroots means. Nearly $700,000 has been collected through private donations and $23,000 alone was raised from a city-wide lemonade stand challenge.
“That is tooth fairy money, piggy bank money, lemonade stand money, businesses, individuals, grandparents, grants, it’s everything,” said Meitner.
“Anytime we’ve put a call to action out there for our community, they’ve been able to step up for us,” said Kaiser.
They say when the park is finished, it will promote self-empowerment, imaginative play while helping develop important social skills and motor skills. It will also help stimulate speech and cognition.
“A child with a disability will be able to play and feel a sense of empowerment,” said Meitner.
Meitner says the park has promoted inclusion, ultimately creating a better future for her son.
“We really see this park as a quality of life issue, and it’s something I wish every park could have, but at this point we don’t. So we’re gonna start with this one and bring kids of all abilities together so they can play side by side,” said Meitner.
“There’s a lot of division in our world today. But with projects like this and the things our community has done for this project, we have been able to see the willingness of people to come together for the common good,” said Kaiser.
For more information on the Hays Arc Park, click here.
Fundraising is still taking place. If you would like to donate to the project, click here.