NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – A so-called "all-abilities" park could soon be coming to New Braunfels. Currently, Callen's Castle is merely a sign in an open field, but the dream is much bigger.
New Braunfels resident Lauren Clawson had a son named Callen. He died from a neurological disorder as a baby. After visiting an all-inclusive playground with her family in Round Rock a few years ago, she felt the calling to create a park in the city. She started the Callen Hugh's Foundation to raise funds.
"My husband and I just thought at that point in time, 'We need to make more parks like this.' This is such an important impact for a community to have," Clawson said. "Everybody deserves a place to relax, everybody deserves a chance to be included and feel normal."
Typical playgrounds include equipment that meet minimum ADA guidelines. An all-inclusive park goes a step further.
"Everything within the park will be 100 percent accessible, no matter what the ability of the parent or the child," said Stacey Dicke with New Braunfels Parks and Recreation.
Ken Heebner, a parent of a 4-year-old with special needs, knows first-hand the struggles of regular playgrounds.
"The typical swings that are at parks to contain little kids. It's difficult to get him in and out of [it,]" Heebner said.
Heebner advocates for the Callen Hugh's Foundation and wants to spread awareness of the importance of bringing an all-abilities park to New Braunfels. He said families like his can benefit from more inclusive equipment. For example: wheelchair transfer stations.
"You would essentially have a platform right here that you could sit down on be able to get a child out of the wheelchair, or an adult, and transfer them off so that they could slide down," Heebner said.
Clawson agreed and adds that interactive therapy is something she would like to see at the park.
"Kids might not realize they're working their therapy just by playing. That aspect is important to me, because if you don't get that at home, then you need a place where you can get that," Clawson said.
New Braunfels Parks and Recreation is currently developing a preliminary design.
"We'll get a firm cost estimate on exactly how much money it would take to build the project and then all of that information will all go back to the bond committee and then they'll take their recommendations to city council for the 2019 bond election" Dicke said.
Following that, Callen's Castle will go to a community vote come next year. You can donate to the future playground here.