Future of Hanford park in limbo after controversy

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Endless Dreams playground at Freedom Park in Hanford was built on private donations and meant to serve children with disabilities and their families. (KFSN)

Endless Dreams playground at Freedom Park in Hanford was built on private donations and meant to serve children with disabilities and their families.

The park means no boundaries. It's where disabled children can play freely on this playground that features rubberized surfacing.

Chris Soares was behind the effort to build it in 2007 and she says it took time, thousands of dollars and the support of the local community and city council to make a dream a reality.

But the reality now is that part of the rubberized surfacing has been torn out.

Soares first saw it for herself a week ago. "I won't lie, I cried, I was shaking," she said.

Two years ago as part of a capital improvement plan. The city's Parks and Recreation Commission and then city council approved a plan to replace the deteriorating rubber with wood fiber chips.

"We were looking at what the cost was and is there another product out there that is ADA compliant that I wouldn't say is just as good but that would meet the needs of the community," Hanford parks and recreation director Craig Miller said.

They may be ADA compliant, but Soares says the wood chips just won't work and could create a safety issue.

"It becomes a moat," Soares explained. "So, you have the kids that want to get over to the island, but they're not going to be able to make it to the island because they can't get through the moat. There are too many obstacles for them."

"And totally understand their concerns, no doubt," Miller said.

The project has been put on hold, and it's now up to city council to decide how to move forward. Miller will present council members with cost estimates at the April 5 council meeting.

He says wood chips will cost around $30,000. While a new rubber surface, could cost up to $125,000.

Soares understands it's expensive, it was when they built it nearly a decade ago.

But she's staying optimistic, "I am very hopeful that our passion and our beliefs will transfer to them and that they will be able to have the power to make us replace with like and kind," Soares said.
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