City breaks ground on All Abilities Park; ‘an outpouring of love’; STGnews Videocast

ST. GEORGE – City officials got a helping hand from the special needs community on Thursday at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new All Abilities Park. The new facility that will be an adjunct to the existing Tonaquint Park is slated to open in the summer of 2015 and is designed to be accessible to children with “all abilities.”

Carrying the theme of “I am able,” Leisure Services Director Kent Perkins emcee’d the ceremony, beginning by hanging a banner bearing that theme. He thanked people for attending and supporting the new park adding that he is so grateful that the city is able to build the facility that will be for young and old and those with typical and not-so-typical abilities, he said.

“It is a wonderful facility and it is a great outpouring of love that is going to make this park available … a reality,” Perkins said. “The All Abilities Park is for anyone and everyone and we are trying to make sure that no one is excluded and so that is what it’s all about, it’s a playground where everyone can play regardless of their mobility or whatever issue they’ve got.”


See Mayor Jon Pike’s comments in video top of the story, click the play arrow  play-arrow  in the center. 

Perkins said that of all the things the city has accomplished while he has worked with them, this park might be the best.

Leisure Services Director Kent Perkins addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new All Abilities Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Leisure Services Director Kent Perkins addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new All Abilities Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

City Manager Gary Esplin echoed Perkins, stating that in his 39 years with the city nothing has been nearer and dearer to his heart or made him more proud to be involved in than this park. Esplin expressed high hopes that this facility will stand as an example to the entire country of how to build an all abilities park, adding that the special needs community here in St. George deserves it.

The proposed park design, which will adhere to a dinosaur theme, will include a volcano, dinosaurs throughout the grounds, sensory and sound gardens, wheelchair-level water and sand play areas and a train that will circle the park on 2,700 feet of track.

The estimated cost of the completed park is between $4 million and $5 million of which the city hopes to see about $1 million in donations both large and small.

At the groundbreaking the St. George Exchange Club presented a check for $100,000. The Exchange Club had previously donated $70,000 but at the end of 2014 they were able to donate an additional $30,000, Exchange Club President Shonie Christensen said, urging other members of the community to get involved with supporting this project.

Members of the special needs community joined city officials and supporter of the All Abilities Park in breaking ground on the new facility located at Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Members of the special needs community joined city officials and supporter of the All Abilities Park in breaking ground on the new facility located at Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

One person who heard the call was Austin Anderson who raised $547 for his Eagle Scout project in order to purchase trees to be planted at the park. Austin Anderson’s brother Nolan Anderson suffered from paralysis and learning challenges, Austin Anderson said.

Nolan Anderson passed away three-and-a-half years ago and is buried at Tonaquint Cemetary, Austin Anderson said.

Lorna Anderson, Austin Anderson’s mother, said that the project hit close to home for Austin as well as for her.

“I love the all abilities thing because Nolan wanted to be like everybody else,” Lorna Anderson said. “Special needs kids want to be like everyone else and this is a place where they can feel more capable and be able to do things more like others.”

To earn the money, Austin Anderson held a car wash selling advance tickets and spending an entire day working hard, Lorna Anderson said. Though the project is over, the family hopes to continue to help with fundraising efforts.

“So many people have loved ones that have challenges and they want to be able to do something and sometimes you feel like you can’t,” Lorna Anderson said, “and this is a place where you can do something to help special needs kids because you don’t have control whether they have cerebral palsy or paralysis but this is something you can control to help make their lives better with a park where they can enjoy themselves and have fun.”

Cupcakes celebrating the dinosaur theme of the new All Abilities Park were handed out to attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony held at Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News
Cupcakes celebrating the dinosaur theme of the new All Abilities Park were handed out to attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony held at Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, Jan. 15, 2015 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

For Talmage Miller, a student at Santa Clara Elementary with cerebral palsy, and his family, the park is an exciting development, one that will facilitate better play and community among families of children with special needs, Talmage’s mother, Christy Miller, said.

“It is exciting to be able to bring your children to an area that they are able to participate and play on with equipment that is more adaptable for their needs and their physical abilities,” Christy Miller said, “and it is fun to come be with other families who have the same disabilities as your family and to know that there is a community out there.”

Talmage along with many other members of the special needs community joined city officials in breaking ground and were seen holding shovels, posing for photos and throwing dirt.

Melissa Anderson, for St. George News and KCSG, contributed the videocast for this report.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • One for the road January 16, 2015 at 11:32 am

    This is a great project for our kids glad to see it go forward kudos to all those involved

  • Shelly January 16, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Really awesome. I have worked with Special needs kids for over 30 years. I love that St. George is building this. I’ve lived in New York, California and a few other states, and have never seen this before. Wonderful that they would spend so much money for this park. Every child will enjoy it, no doubt about it.

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