Park designed for those with disabilities opens in Hays

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 6:20 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A new $1.4 million park, accessible for individuals of all ages and abilities, is now open in Hays. The playground and splash pad with a western Kansas theme is especially welcoming to individuals with disabilities, like one boy who inspired its construction.

Seven-year-old Abe is one of the kids the Hays Accessible Recreation Complex Park was designed for. He’s such an inspiration that a portion of the park, Abe’s farm, was named for him.

Abe has Down syndrome and his mother Sarah Meitner, also board president of Arc of Central Plains, said a simple phone call inspired change.

“He was a little guy, couldn’t quite fit in a toddler swing anymore,” Meitner said. “But he didn’t have the core strength to sit on a regular swing and that call to the parks department asking for a swing five years ago turned into this.”

Hays recently conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the new 14,000 square foot park. It features farm and oil equipment to remind those who come and play of their roots.

But the park is more than the fun it offers – its organizers are trying to make a difference. According to organizers, there are more than 1,400 children and adults with disabilities in the area. And they need to be included in the fun, too.

Executive director of Arc of Central Plains Kathy McAdoo said the hope for this park is inclusion. The park is currently accepting donations to complete the turf baseball field, and McAdoo said $500,000 to $600,000 is needed to complete this phase.

“This just makes it so natural, because everybody plays together,” McAdoo said. “And so they get to know each other as people and they don’t see the disability. So I think it’s just terrific.”

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