Creating Inclusive Recreational Opportunities
“The Crossing at Angel Court” fully accessible public park and playground was inspired by Katie Mayberry, who was born in 2001 with spina bifida and mobile through the use of a wheelchair.
Imagine being a kid, and looking at an amazing playground full of children you'd love to play with, and then realizing that you have to watch on the sidelines. For the child in the wheelchair, a trip to the playground often includes tears and frustrations.
Most playgrounds do not have a surface on which children can wheel. Pea gravel or mulch is not wheelchair-friendly surfacing, so even getting next to the playground equipment is not an easy task. Then upon arrival to the equipment, there usually is very little for the child to do other than to watch others play – not exactly stimulating for the child and definitely not exercise for him or her either. Katie Mayberry experienced those frustrations.
In 2001, Andy and Julie Mayberry – Katie’s parents – bought four acres of land in the East End community of Saline County with intention of building a shopping plaza. Plans fell through. What seemed at the time to be a failure turned into a bigger plan to develop an area dedicated to improving the lives of children with
disabilities. Two of the four acres were donated to Saline County to build the "I CAN! Arts and Resource Center." The center was built through a grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission in a unique partnership with Saline County and the non-profit organization, Community Connections. The center offers extra-curricular activities for children with disabilities, including dance, art, cooking and music.
In 2013, the other two acres were donated to the county to build a fully accessible park that could be used by everyone and would complement the I CAN! Center's facilities that were adjacent. A matching grant from Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, coupled with some other grants and private donations, were raised to build the first phase – the playground area of "The Crossing at Angel Court." It opened in October of 2015. It is one of only two county-owned public parks in Arkansas and was the first fully accessible public park in the central region of the state. A walking trail, pavilion and labyrinth were added in 2018 through a recreational trails grant offered through the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The park - while owned by Saline County - is operated and maintained through volunteer efforts and private donations, all coordinated through The Crossing at Angel Court Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Various groups, such as “Friends of the Park Garden Club,” Boy Scouts, and area churches have provided volunteers to help with the park’s upkeep and activities.
The park’s name - “The Crossing”- was chosen to represent the crossing of generations, abilities, and races of people who will be using the park’s amenities. Its physical location on Angel Court in East End completed the name. This park will exist for future generations to all enjoy TOGETHER.
Thanks to all who have worked to turn a dream into reality.