SOLEDAD, Calif. (KMUV) The City of Soledad is building a fully inclusive park where children with disabilities can play with other kids without barriers.
The park will be located on Orchard Lane on a total of 3.5 acres. In addition to a custom-designed inclusive playground, it will include a place for dogs, skateboarding, and artwork.
The city has been planning this project since 2019 using the $7 million they got from the Proposition 68 State Parks Grant Campaign.
Proposition 68 grants $218 million to repair and improve state parks, including projects that provide recreational opportunities for low-income park visitors. This bill was passed in 2018, where it became the largest investment in natural resources among underserved communities in California history.
Andrea Muñoz is about to turn 18, but she still has a little girl at heart, and parks have always been one of her favorite places to hang out with friends.
"As a mother of my special girl," explains Andrea's mom, Josefina Muñoz. "I see the importance of having this type of play because our children are already big, and their soul is that of little child, so they, at least mine, want to be on a swing. It doesn't matter if there's a little kid. She wants her space too."
Josefina is a leader of a parent support group called PANESC, Padres de Niños Especiales del Sur del Condado She, along with Maria Sanchez, helped many parents who are just starting to navigate the system for their special needs children. And they tell us that the park is an opportunity not only for kids with certain disabilities to play but also to remove a daily barrier they face.
"I have a daughter with special needs, and through the group, we've become aware of many different disabilities," Maria said. "If we don't have these inclusive playgrounds, there's children that can't participate."
Soledad Mayor Anna Velazquez also has a sister with special needs, and this project touched close to her heart.
"When we're talking about inclusivity, it's important to remember that inclusivity includes everyone and part of what we have to do as leaders is to make sure that there are these kinds of parks for each of our children," said Anna, "Every child deserves to have a place to play."