Lombardi agrees with parents on building better playground

Lombardi agrees with parents on building better playground

Mayor Charles Lombardi speaks with Marieville parents about their desire for an accessible new playground during a neighborhood meeting June 3.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – During a meeting with local parents on June 3, Mayor Charles Lombardi agreed to give them a greater say in the final design of a new and more inclusive playground planned for Marieville.

Megan Hall noted how Lombardi spoke with parents of children with disabilities and agreed to let them work with the playground designer to create a new plan. He said he’s also willing to find some extra money to pay for new equipment.

Lombardi told the Town Council last week that once the parents meet with representatives from O’Brien & Sons and finalize their requests for a more inclusive playground off June Street, he will come back to them with a more definitive plan. The biggest concern they have is for greater accessibility for the handicapped.

“Whatever needs to get done we will do,” he said.

Lombardi has previously said he planned to install a playground that was a carbon copy of another one planned for Centredale, with an estimated price tag of $100,000 apiece, but that cost will likely rise now with other elements factored in.

Heather Callanan, mother of the late Ian Novacek, was one of those parents invited to last week’s meeting, and she said afterward that she thinks it’s important that North Providence knows that this project is now being designed with the goal of accessibility and inclusion for all children.

“This isn’t going to be just a park for able-bodied children, or a park for only Marieville,” she told The Breeze.

Callanan said her personal goal “was shoot for the moon.” An accessible playground is more than a swing for a wheelchair or a ramp to enter, she said.

“That would be an accessible swing within a playground,” she said. “I wanted more and I was brought to tears to see how far playground equipment has come for our kiddos in chairs. We are asking for everything we want, knowing it’s a dream but also that sometimes dreams do come true.”

When someone asks for what they want and need, they allow someone to extend a hand, said Callanan.

“Stay quiet and no one knows what you need,” she said.

No one knows unless they are a caregiver, she said, and even then no two children are the same.

“Mayor Lombardi calls us ‘a community that cares,’” she said. “His commitment to our children is endearing and when he said ‘yes’ that he would temporarily pause the project so that we could have time to put our dreams on paper, I was over the moon” and in tears.

When her son was in elementary school in North Providence, there were no playgrounds at school, she said, and children made the best of playing on old cracked blacktop.

“That didn’t lend itself to inclusion,” she said, and her family often had to drive to Warwick or a town in Massachusetts to find an accessible playground.

“I believe the mayor when he says he will do everything he can to help us get what we are asking for,” she said.

Lombardi changed her family’s life with the town’s previous donation of an accessible van, she said, and that van is now being used by another family.

According to Callanan and others, the new playground will need a very particular surface to be accessible. There will need to be handrails for children who can walk in their own way, she said.

“This particular group of people is dedicated and determined to help North Providence set the example for other communities,” she said.

Their goal is to have equipment meant for children who seek sensory input, musical equipment that even her deaf daughter will love because she will feel the music, and shade for children who can’t control their body temperatures. They also want picnic tables that a wheelchair can be pulled up to, and enough handicapped parking to accommodate families.

“That’s just the start,” she said.

There will also be at least one buddy bench in honor of Ian, she said.

Mayor Charles Lombardi and Heather Callanan hug during last week’s event to discuss a new playground in Marieville.

Comments

Is great! Yet, I have been thinking about how the poor animals in the shelter are faring in this unbearable heat ...in that disgusting filthy shelter ...the Mayor refuses to care about the voiceless....it has been said you can judge a man on how he treats those who cannot speak for themselves. ..money for everything but those poor beings....heartless

North Providence is missing handicapped side walks. I don't think North Providence side walks are handicapped assessable or ADA-compliant.