Park in Nipomo for disabled youngsters progresses

Jack Ready
Jack Ready

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday set a park on the Nipomo Mesa for physically and mentally challenged youngsters off on a bureaucratic voyage that could end with special needs children having their own place to gather and play.

Plans for Jack Ready Park — which is named after a 3-year-old child who died of brain cancer in 2004 — have moved forward slowly since the boy’s aunt and uncle donated the land at the end of Illinois Avenue to the county in 2005.

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

Jack Ready’s parents, 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.

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

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

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

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

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.