Recent Etowah High School graduate Julia Reidy delivered a successful senior project presentation before school ended in May. It was so well received that county officials decided to implement her ideas to renovate the playground at Hobgood Park into a more inclusive and accessible space.
“Julia did a very thorough job on her senior project and made a wonderful presentation to the CRPA (Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency) Advisory Board. Because the first phase of her proposal fits within our fiscal year budget, I was able to commit to adding this piece of adaptive equipment to the existing playground. As funds become available, the county will continue to make improvements to our existing playgrounds, and we may consider utilizing some of her proposal for future improvements,” CRPA Director Bryan Reynolds said.
“I was very impressed with how thorough she was with her research, and also how thoughtful she was in breaking the project up into phases knowing that funding can be a challenge for public agencies and that projects are often accomplished in phases.”
Julia’s proposal included adding new, inclusive equipment and a smooth rubber surfacing for accessibility to the current playground at Hobgood Park. Her reasoning for the improvements were clearly laid out in her presentation.
“Hobgood sits in the middle of Boston and Bascomb elementary schools, and shortly down the road from Oak Grove Elementary School. Bascomb serves 10 percent of its student population with learning disabilities, including students with profound limited mobility. Boston Elementary School serves 14 percent of their students with learning disabilities, and Oak Grove serves 10 percent of its student population with learning disabilities, along with carrying a special needs preschool.
“Hobgood’s position in the center of these three schools provides an urgent need for accessible playground and playspace in this area beyond the accessible playground at Patriots Park. Hobgood also receives heavy traffic from outside of Woodstock for baseball, bringing a possible influx of children with special needs who come with their siblings who play baseball. Cherokee County and its school system are highly regarded in the special needs community. The county attracts numerous special needs families who move to this area and even become renters in order to get their children access to the resources that the Cherokee County School System provides for kids with special needs.”
Julia points out the success of Patriots Park, a recently completed county venue with accessibility for special needs. While Patriots Park serves this constituency, there’s still a need to alleviate overcrowding for this population.
“Large crowds and excessive noise and motion can be overwhelming for children with autism and sensory issues, and cause fear, anxiety and other issues. Having Hobgood accessible to children with sensory issues, as well as Patriot’s Park, would allow these children to have options, and be able to choose a location that allows them to play without an overwhelming crowd.”
Her recommendations of specific equipment (a sensory panel, an arch swing, a merry-go-all, a sensory wave climber and rubber surfacing) included details on sizes, benefits and quotes from the manufacturer. Julia planned the improvement in four phases to be completed over several years.
Remodeling the playground was a way to illustrate the topic of her senior project research paper, which was the neurological and physiological benefits of exposure to the outdoors and green space on humans.
“The very effects of time outdoors that I had just researched are some of the things that special needs children could reap the benefits of the most, yet it is often difficult and sometimes impossible for them to have the same opportunities for outdoor play as any other kid,” Julia said, who is attending Villanova University this fall to study biochemistry.
“I still can’t really believe that my project is this close to being a reality. When the board liked it on the night I presented, it was probably one of the best feelings I have ever had. I just hope it makes the special needs kids in the community feel even better.”