JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Johnson City’s new boundless playground at Rotary Park is becoming quite the attraction in its first two months, but Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl says the city needs to more to make the inclusive park more accessible to all people.
The city recently added three portable toilets, one of them near the Gump Pavilion in the back of the park, ahead of a graduation party after a mother reached out with concerns that her son’s guest list included several people with disabilities. The park lacks a handicap-accessible bathroom near that rental pavilion.
“We have a boundless playground, which is all inclusive. We’re proud to have this great project and recognizing that that feature is in this park, we are very sensitive to the individual needs and insofar as possible will try to address and accommodate anything we can,” Stahl said.
The park has two sets of handicap-accessible bathrooms, but not near the Gump Pavilion. The only way to access those bathrooms or the boundless playground from the Gump Pavilion is to walk down a set of stairs or drive to the other side of the park.
Stahl says the city was already trying to come up with a plan for more bathrooms and better access prior to this situation, but said, this reaffirmed the need to make a long-term solution a priority. Stahl says the city hopes to have a permanent fix in place later this year.
“We realize that we now have a year-round park and we know we have a lot more crowds,” he said. “We recognize that with the volume of folks we anticipate at the park, not just at the boundless playground, but also at the pavilion rentals, we need to do much more.”
Melanie Rogers sent the mayor an email praising Stahl for his quick reaction to add a portable toilet and address her concerns before her son’s graduation party.
“We were satisfied with our accommodations and understand that fixing the issue will take time,” Rogers said. “(We are) very pleased (the city) recognizes the need.”
Mayor David Tomita says, to his knowledge, this is the first time accessibility has been an issue at Rotary Park. He says that’s most likely because of the increased interest in the new boundless playground.
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