At the Nov. 20 Watkinsville City Council meeting, the only public support for Extra Special People’s Miracle League Complex, a proposed recreational area tailored to children with disabilities, came from within the council.
After about half an hour of several citizens speaking out against a baseball field, splash pad, parking lot and other amenities considered for Harris Shoals Park, Councilman Brian Brodrick defended the city’s goal of making the park more accessible to special needs children.
In 2018, the city of Watkinsville and ESP, a nonprofit that provides opportunities for children with disabilities and whose headquarters is adjacent to City Hall, installed a swing for disabled children. Earlier this fall, the City Council Voted unanimously to allocate $442,000 to modernize the Harris Shoals Park playground with equipment that can be used by children of all abilities.
Brodrick said ESP Director Laura Whitaker told him that her wish is for disabled children to have the same opportunities as all other children.
“That may be a painful moment for a parent who drives by and thinks, ‘My child can’t use that slide or play on that playground,’” said Brodrick. “Every child should be able to touch the water and use those facilities. These families have the opportunity to interact without losing the essence of Harris Shoals.”
Brodrick said Watkinsville values inclusivity.
“I get that this may be an overreach and horrify some of you,” said Brodrick, acknowledging that a splash pad might be a “bridge too far.”
“The goal of this council is to find a way to balance that,” he said. “Philosophically, this is where my heart is.”
For more on this story, see the Nov. 27 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.