Plan for Jack Ready Park in Nipomo moves forward

A park on Nipomo Mesa for physically and mentally challenged youngsters inched forward Tuesday as the Board of Supervisors formally placed it onto the planning treadmill.

Technically, what supervisors did was “authorize the processing of an application for a change in the land use category” of the 30-acre Jack Ready Park.

In layman’s terms, they set the would-be park off on a bureaucratic voyage that could end with “challenged” children having a special — and unique — place to gather and play.

Jack Ready Park is at the end of Illinois Avenue at the edge of the bluffs overlooking the agricultural lands flanking Oso Flaco.

The park is named after a child who died of brain cancer in 2004, at the age of 3.

His mom and dad, Paul and Bridget Ready, founded Jack’s Helping Hand to help other youngsters, providing therapeutic and other equipment for children and assisting with travel to distant medical facilities.

Jack's aunt and uncle, Nick and Kathleen Tompkins, donated the Nipomo land to the county in 2005 for the park.

Since then, the park has moved forward slowly. The vote Tuesday, while not formally approving it, will enable planners to bring it closer to fruition. Public hearings will take place later.

Ready has said there is nothing like this park in San Luis Obispo County.

Former parks manager Pete Jenny said last year that he expects parking closer to group areas, picnic tables that accommodate wheelchairs, roll-on sidewalks and specialized playground equipment, among other amenities. It could include therapeutic horse riding.

Ready has said he hopes one day the site can be used for Special Olympics.

Jeremy Freund of the Wallace Group, which supports the park, told supervisors there are 4,083 special needs children enrolled in San Luis Obispo County schools. That is 12 percent of the school population compared to 10 percent statewide, he said.

While aimed at disabled children, the park also would welcome children not facing those challenges, and organizers see the interaction benefiting both groups of youngsters.

The board got a peek Tuesday at some hurdles that might arise before Jack Ready Park can open to children. There may be problems with water supply, for one thing, and the county must find a way to ensure that its use is consistent with county policies.

Supervisor Katcho Achadjian, who has taken a special interest in Jack Ready Park, said he sometimes asks himself “Why can’t we just make it happen?” But he said moving the proposal through the planning process will enable officials to identify and overcome problems.

The Board of Supervisors also waived permit fees for the park. The $14,000 saved will be ploughed back into the park’s development.