Those leading a community effort to construct a new park in Ringgold for families who have members with disabilities are hoping a site will be named in 2023.
The Crossroads Unity Family Park has been in development for about eight years and benefits from a partnership with the city of Ringgold, said Millie Cheek, chairwoman of the park's committee. The volunteers are raising money for the park and to build its play features, she said in a phone interview, while the city will provide the land, park upkeep and infrastructure such as parking and stormwater capture.
"What makes it (the park) unique is that the park is all accessible," Cheek said. "It'll meet the needs of children with special abilities -- we all have special abilities -- with a special emphasis on adults with disabilities."
The group sold out a New Year's Eve fundraiser at the Ringgold Depot, Cheek said, and another concert fundraiser is scheduled for summer 2023.
Cheek said the park will be built on a parcel of city-owned land, and she expects the City Council to approve a location soon. That approval will allow organizers to start writing grants for the park.
The park will have ramps up to a platform, so family members in wheelchairs can be on the same level as their children as they play. A treehouse structure will be the park's centerpiece, and it will have a series of ramps up to a deck. Inside the treehouse will be a room with interactive exhibits designed for visitors with autism.
Some children who use wheelchairs have never gone down a slide, Cheek said, but the ramp and platform design will allow them to have that experience. A wheelchair swing is being considered, too, she said.
Those designs will open a lot of opportunities for family members of all abilities, Cheek said.
Plans for the park were drawn by New York-based Play By Design, and its construction is expected to cost $750,000. Cheek said that figure includes labor, but she said the 11-person park committee expects to recruit volunteers to do the construction. Along with fundraisers, Cheek said money will be raised for the park by allowing individuals and businesses to sponsor pieces of the play equipment.
Cheek said that once a location is chosen and build date is scheduled, organizers will need volunteers to help with construction. But right now, she said one of the best ways to help is to spread the word about the project.
The park will be dedicated to all United States veterans and the memory of Troy Dyer, a Marine veteran who lost his legs, among other injuries, on his second tour in Vietnam. Dyer didn't let his loss hold him back, Cheek said, and his work as a brick and stone mason can be seen throughout Catoosa County.
The committee's Welcome to Summer concert is scheduled for June 24 at the Northwest Georgia Amphitheatre in Ringgold. 2023 will be the fundraising concert's third year and will feature singalong county bands including Low Down Revival, Neon Moon, Iron Horse and another band that organizers aren't ready to announce.
Tickets for the concert go on sale Feb. 1 on the group's website.
Catoosa County Commissioner Vanita Hullander said she got involved with the project when she was the county coroner because there was such a need for the park in the community. Dyer, who has since died, Hullander said, was her brother-in-law.
Cheek said she's always been community minded and got involved after the group's first project -- the Little General Children's Park -- was completed in the summer of 2008. Cheek said it's been easy to work with Ringgold officials, referring to her work on both parks.
"We want to go one step beyond a park that's uniquely meeting the needs for child and adults," Cheek said. "We want it (Crossroads Unity Family Park) to be a pattern for other parks because there is a need to include all family members, and that's what our goal is for this park."
Cheek said she's learned from conversations about the project that most people have never thought about the lack of accessibility at most playgrounds, but when people hear the about the park, everyone thinks it's a good idea.
Contact Andrew Wilkins at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.