Two local women, Marilyn Montoya and Dr. Katie Harper are the driving force behind the Boundless Adventures Park, which will be located at the former site of Tibbetts Middle School, 317 E. Apache St. In a phone interview, Montoya discussed her continuing journey of making an all-abilities park become a reality in Farmington.
For Montoya, the journey of creating such a park was somewhat serendipitous.
“One day I was just driving down Apache (street) and I looked at that empty space – and I was like – that’s my park. That’s where our park needs to go. … Everything happens for a reason,” Montoya said.
Montoya, a retired school counselor, said she was volunteering for a Lions Club program testing the vision of kindergarten and pre-K children. Part of the screening is taking a photo of the eyes.
While testing a little girl in a wheelchair, Montoya asked the girl to “open your eyes really, really big play like you're on a swing.” Her caregiver looked at Montoya and said the girl had never been on a swing.
Montoya later called Harper, a pediatric physical therapist, and related the story. “Welcome to my world,” Harper said.
Montoya’s response was, “OK, well, we have to do something now.”
Montoya felt strongly it should not happen where a handicapped child could not experience the pure joy of a playground swing. “There was not one park that a child in a wheelchair could access a play area,” Montoya said.
Even if a park is ADA complaint, that does not necessarily equate to accessible, Montoya said.
Montoya explained that mulch used in many play areas of parks is ADA compliant. “Now, I would challenge anyone to try to roll a wheelchair, a bicycle or even stroller through that bark,” she said.
With none of the over 50 parks in the city of Farmington capable of accommodating all physical ability levels and needs, Montoya began by contacting Farmington’s Parks and Recreation department.
Montoya said the parks and recreation director had to present the idea to city officials before they could move forward, but the city got behind the idea quickly.
Realizing the need existed and having support from the city set things in motion. Montoya and Harper moved forward quickly and established a foundation, the Tibbetts All Abilities Park Foundation Foundation, and establish a board.
Montoya said they have wonderful people on their board, including retired judge John Dean and Dr. Paul Cutler, who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.
“And he (Cutler) will tell you that he went overnight from being a practicing surgeon to a man with a disability,” Montoya said. She added a comment Cutler made previously, saying, “You don't realize the limitations until you're there.”
Boundless Adventure Park will have something for all ages and abilities.
The all-abilities park design will focus on universal accessibility and all-inclusive amenities for play, therapy and fitness. It will offer unique and innovative play structures, rehabilitation equipment with nature-based and sensory gardens for both adults and children.
Farmington Parks and Recreation Department responded in an email to questions about where the project stands currently.
Park planner Rachelle Crosby and Farmington spokesperson Christa Chapman said the conceptual design is complete and fully funded. They added that construction documents for phase one and two are fully funded as well.
They said the large project is estimated to cost $13 million. The city is working on phases one and two, of a three phase project, which has an estimated cost of $8 million.
According to Crosby and Chapman, $5 million of the $8 million has been secured for the eight-plus acre project.
“We will continue to look for grants, and the Tibbetts All Abilities Park Foundation continues to work on gathering donations,” they stated.
In terms of funding options for the remainder of the project, they said, “Everything is on the table. We will look at using gross receipts tax revenue, bonds, seek additional grants and donations.”
The existing field and running track is not affected by phases one or two. Crosby and Chapman said, “We tasked our consultant to keep the majority of the track functional throughout construction. It may have temporary closures to promote safety and allow our contractor to complete work on the current phases without interference.”
For those with autism or other sensory issues, the park will have numerous passive and active spaces.
“Our design consultant paid special attention to creating nooks and spaces for respite from areas that are highly active,” they stated.
Regarding liability factors, officials said, “With all city parks, the equipment will be installed to the manufacturer's specifications and standards by contractors. There is no greater risk than at any other park.”
Staffing of the park will include personnel in the building and a maintenance team on-site.
“None of the equipment requires trained personnel to supervise use,” according to the officials.
“Like at any park, people will need to assess the needs of the individuals in their own group to determine how much supervision they themselves will need to provide,” Crosby and Chapman wrote.
Montoya said they have occupational therapists, physical therapists and the special education director for Farmington Municipal Schools, along with a retired judge and surgeon on their board of directors.
Harper serves as president, Montoya as vice president, Jessica Lazenby as treasurer, Amanda Morrison-Thrower as secretary and Jackie Reddy as technician/social media assistant. Other members include Dr. Paul Cutler, retired judge John Dean, Rick Griffiths, Christa Kulidge, Morgan Kelly and Valerie Sandoval.
Donations may be made online through TAPP or directly through Montoya at email@example.com or (505) 330-4811.
Schematics and other information on the Boundless Adventures Park is available online.