(LINTON) - A grouping of new handicapped accessible playground equipment officially opened Saturday morning in Linton's Humphreys Park - thanks to the diligent work and partnership between Linton Elks Lodge No. 866 and the City of Linton.
Nick Schneider, of the Greene County Daily World reports, a ribbon-cutting by nine-year-old Dillon Lockhart, from Linton, and wheelchair-bound Aubrey Miller, of Worthington, marked the opening of playground addition on the west-side of the park.
The new playground equipment, located in a shady area between the Girl Scout Cabin and the west shelter house, includes: a multi-colored sliding board/climbing tower, a wheelchair roll-through apparatus, as well as a drum and bell station used to improve hand/eye coordination.
The equipment is circled by a new concrete sidewalk path. The surface of the playground area features cushioned soft mulch made from recycled ground-up tire material.
Dean Miller, past Exalted Ruler of the Linton Elks Lodge, said the project was funded by a $10,000 grant received through the Elks National Foundation Impact Grant Fund.
"The city (Linton) put matching funds -- a little bit better than matching funds as far as labor and equipment. They did all of the rock base and concrete work," Miller said. "This is handicapped accessible. It's for kids with autism, just whatever handicap they may have."
Miller said the project is a wonderful one.
"It just warms my heart to see this," Miller said.
The park improvement fulfills a vision Miller had for youngsters with handicaps to be able to enjoy the park.
"The thing that really started all of this was I sat over there in the park and I had my five grandkids out and they were all playing. I seen a kid in a wheelchair and all that child could do was sit at the table. There was nothing for the child to do. All of the other kids were out playing. That got me to start thinking about what we could do as far as helping the handicapped. It took off from there," Miller explained. "Just remember the Elks care and Elks share. We try and put as much out for the community as we can."
Pointing to a group of Elks members who were preparing to enjoy a cookout lunch meal after the ground-breaking, Miller said, "All of those guys over there are the guys who helped put it together as far as ground work and putting the equipment together."
Miller pointed out that former Linton Mayor Patti Jones and city council member Fred Markle were instrumental in the project.
Jones continues to have a key role in the next phase of improvements planned by the Elks.
"She's doing the grant writing for the second phase of this project, which is improvements to the Linton swimming pool. It will be made handicapped accessible with installation of a lift which is about $6,000 or $7,000 total. The second grant is for $10,000 just like the first one."
The remainder of the money from the second grant will go to put concrete in and upgrades to some foot baths that have to be made when they come out of the bathhouse so wheelchairs can get into there, according to Miller.
Linton Mayor John Wilkes is elated with the work the Elks have done in the town park.
"It is a great addition to the park. We really appreciate what the Elks do. This about $10,000 worth of work that they've put into it that we, the city, doesn't have to spend. The Elks are really good partners with the city on these projects," Wilkes said. "We really appreciate what they are doing on the pool for next year."
He continued, "This is great addition to our park. We have a nice park out here and this is really nice. The Linton Elks are very civic-minded. They do a lot in the community and they are a good organization. They participate in a lot of things in town and they are just an asset to have here."
Linton Super Walmart Store, through store manager Jason Wells, also partnered on the project by providing $1,000 to help put the soft mulch around the playground equipment, according to Miller.
"This was a big help on Walmart's part," Miller added.
State Elks Lodge President Ed Hagemeier, from Bicknell, participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony and also commented on the project.
"This is just super and by graces of the Elks National Foundation and the Linton Elks and the city of Linton this is just a great addition to this park. This is a beautiful park and to help out the kids who are going get value from it and be able to come here and play, it's a family thing. That is what the Elks are all about is family idea and family fun and get together and be as a one unit together. We just appreciate the Linton Elks and everybody else involved in putting all of this together," Hagemeier told the Greene County Daily World. "I know there was a lot of work involved in this park here. We really appreciate that."
Hagemeier added, "I think there were only three lodges in the state of Indiana that received one of these Impact grants out of the 66 that were awarded (nationally). There was a lot of work involved in just filling out the application."
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