Gloria Cypret's grandson uses a wheelchair, but likes to go to the park.
In Davenport, that's a problem.
The city doesn't have an all-inclusive playground with a wheelchair-accessible surface nor equipment for handicapped children. Cypret and a group named after the boy, "Gabe's Dream Team," set out to solve that problem. They got their first boost last week from the city council.
The council approved an agreement to work with a California-based group, Shane's Inspiration, to help fund raise and design an all-inclusive playground for Vander Veer Botanical Park. Cypret was overwhelmed by aldermen's reaction when she made a presentation to them two weeks ago.
"It is just another feather in our cap," she said. "It is going to help so many people."
Aldermen told Cypret that all-inclusive playground equipment should be the city's policy in the future. Alderman Jason Gordon, at large, with then Parks and Recreation director Seve Ghose, was among the first city officials the group met. Ghose left Davenport in July for a job in Oregon.
"She made sense when we first met and she did at the council meeting," Gordon said. "It will probably become the norm based on the growing use of adaptive playgrounds.
"It would be a positive move for the city of Davenport and its residents."
When her grandson came to live with her, Cypret and her husband looked around to see if any playgrounds were accessible and found only McManus Park in Bettendorf. Cypret met with Ghose and Gordon early on to gauge support. Their small but determined group looked at all the parks in the city that would be best for such a playground.
Gabe, 10, is a fifth-grader at Hoover Elementary School in Bettendorf, where he used to live.
"We thought we didn’t have a chance for Vander Veer," she said.
Vander Veer wasn't on the first list, though Cypret recognized its potential, being large and flat. Ghose told the group that money to replace the playground equipment was available.
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City Administrator Craig Malin, who is the acting parks and recreation director, said the equipment would replace the current equipment and not expand the playground's footprint in Vander Veer. He supports all-inclusive playgrounds.
"People often talk of the beauty of Vander Veer Park, and rightly so," Malin said. "There is nothing more beautiful than opening up the park to everyone."
The Friends of Vander Veer organization likes the idea, but wants to make sure it fits into the park, said the group's president Rita Bawden. The Friends' focus has been more botanical than recreational.
"We did hear about this plan for an inclusive playground and think it is a wonderful idea," she said. "We haven’t seen anything to tell us what it would look like, but we want it to have a botanical feel."
Because the playground would be in Vander Veer, it would require approval of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, Malin and Bawden said.
Cypret is ready to move toward fund raising with the goal of $500,000.
"We are staying positive and think we are going to hit that half a million mark because there is such a need," she said. "We should have a good idea in April of what our funds look like and hopefully have a groundbreaking early in the fall of 2014."