After months of waiting and a change in plans, the Carolina Shores Board of Commissioners voted not to assist the Town of Calabash and the Calabash Elks Lodge in funding a piece of playground equipment that would add accessible fun to a variety of children with needs.
While looking to add more accessibility opportunities to the Calabash Community Park, Calabash Elks Lodge board member Juanita Adams has been seeking collaboration with both town boards and the Calabash Elks Lodge on this project.
“This piece of equipment is specifically designed for a child who has difficulties,” Adams’ said.
The seesaw is not like a traditional one that has no back and can have a hard impact when hitting the ground, Adams’ explained. This seesaw features a sort of chair back that prevents children from slipping off.
Initially, the project entailed adding two inclusive pieces of playground equipment at the park. One piece of equipment was going to be a Merry-Go-All, the other a low-impact seesaw.
The seesaw features braille and sensory play features, a high back for additional support in keeping children safe and on the seesaw and a gentle rocking system with springs, Adams said.
With inflation affecting the prices of the equipment and the Impact Grant sought by Adams from the Elks Lodge falling through, Adams said she chose to only ask for funding of the seesaw.
The cost of the one piece of equipment approximately totals between $11,000 and $12,000. The cost includes $8,884 for the equipment, a $1,920 freight charge to transport from Arkansas and possible other fees.
The Calabash Board of Commissioners looked at the addition to the park as an opportunity and agreed unanimously to help with partial funding during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Calabash commissioners did not set a specific budget amount for the project because they were waiting to hear if the Carolina Shores Board would contribute to the funding.
Adams said she has a deadline of January 31, 2023, to have all of the formal paperwork completed. She described the process of trying to bring everyone together and get the project rolling as similar to herding cats.
During the Carolina Shores Board of Commissioners regular meeting on Monday morning, Nov. 14, Commissioner Beverly Mayhew said she respected what Adams has tried to do but had concerns with taking Carolina Shores money and putting it into a project in Calabash.
The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation had a 2022 Accessibility for Parks (AFP) program that was announced in March and ended on November 1, Mayhew noted. She said she thought that this project would have been a great fit for it and encouraged Adams to apply for it if it is offered again in 2023.
The parks and recreational AFP website states that local governments and some public authorities are eligible to apply for the matching grants.
The website also states that: “The matching grants can be used to build accessible facilities or adapt existing facilities that meet the unique needs of children and veterans with physical and developmental disabilities. Local governments can request a maximum of $500,000 with each application and must match the grant with at least $1 of local funds for every $5 in grant funds.”
“I just have an uneasy feeling about our dollars going outside the town, just as I have problems with taking stuff across the state line…” Commissioner Bill Brennan said.
Carolina Shores Town Administrator Chad Hicks told the board that the town is able to work with another town in a joint project and that no legal lines would be crossed. Hicks said it was more of a policy issue than anything.
Brennan said that he was also concerned about liability for Carolina Shores if someone were to be injured or something were to happen. He was unsure, too, about the lack of control the Carolina Shores board would have in the project and where exactly the finances would go.
“And it’s totally out of our control,” he noted. “I mean it’s like, ‘Here — here’s a pile of money, do what you’d like with it, and I’ll [watch].’ ”
Carolina Shores Commissioner Debbie Watts countered that Carolina Shores should be looking at more child-inclusive amenities as more families and grandchildren make their way to the area.
Watts noted that a lot of families live in the Farm at Brunswick neighborhood, and they shouldn’t feel restricted to using that playground equipment only.
“I think this is a great alliance between Carolina Shores [and] Calabash,” she noted. “We all benefit from everything. We shop in Calabash, we live in Carolina Shores, we eat in Calabash, but we have our own town which consists of all these different communities and we’re all in this together.”
Silence fell across the board as Watts made a motion in favor of the town helping in funding the project. No second was made, the motion died and the door was shut on the joint project.
Although the Carolina Shores Commissioners opted out of purchasing the seesaw, Adams has received support from another group in the Elks and the Grand Elk Lodge, as well as from the Town of Calabash.
The golf committee of the Elks will be hosting its annual golf tournament on March 3, 2023, and has offered to donate portions of the money raised to the project, Adams said.
The original grant Adams applied for, the Impact Grant, required members of the Calabash lodge to take an active part in constructing the equipment. The grant also had other criterions that Adams could not promise would be met in the future.
“Since our medium age in the Elks is about 72 years old, I couldn’t see any of us digging a hole…” Adams said to Calabash Commissioners during her Nov. 8 presentation. “So, there was no way that we were able to get involved in the actual construction of the item.”
The Grand Elk members liked Adams idea and told her that she could apply for a $3,000 Gratitude Grant, she added.
Since then, she has obtained money from the Grand Lodge. The money is sitting there waiting to be used, but the lodge needs to know where it is going, she said. If not used on this project, the money will have to be spent in another way to help local youth.
Adams added she is worried that the price of the seesaw will only go up the longer the delay.
The price quote of the one piece of equipment was originally just under $7,000 at the start of the project. It is now over $11,000 after a second quote, and that quote is only good for 30 days.
“All of us have mountains to climb at some time of our lives and why make it more difficult for a child with a disability,” Adams said. “They’re going to have mountains to climb anyway, don’t make it in the playground.”
The Calabash Board of Commissioners will be revisiting the project on December 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Calabash Town Hall.
Savanna Tenenoff is the staff writer at the Brunswick Beacon. Feel free to reach out with comments, questions and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.