All-inclusive playground moves ahead

A Granite Construction worker is part of a crew building LEO’s Haven at Chanticleer County Park Tuesday morning. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

LIVE OAK — Concrete work was set in motion Tuesday as work moves forward on LEO’s Haven, a playground at Chanticleer County Park designed for children with disabilities such as blindness, mobility impairment and autism.

"We’re delighted that everything is still on schedule and aiming for an open in early 2020,” said Rebecca Hurley, Santa Cruz County Parks Superintendent. “The new play structure is geared for age groups 2-5 and 5-10. It’s such a exciting addition to our parks.”

The mammoth play structure is the main feature of the proposed $4 million rebuild in the heart of the 4.5-acre park. 

The project was put in motion by the parents of Oliver Potts, who is largely wheelchair bound. The dream for Santa Cruz County’s first inclusive playground for children of all abilities began when Tricia Potts, of Watsonville, took her three children to a local park. Her son Oliver, 3, had just gotten his first wheelchair and was eager to see how he would navigate the world on wheels. Right away, Potts said, they had a problem: his chair was unable to go over the wood chips they needed to cross in order to reach the other children.

Potts said she came away asking how her son cold play at a playground like any other kid. That’s when her husband, Bob, suggested she visit an all-inclusive playground, Tatum’s Garden, in Salinas, the first such playground in the Monterey Bay region. That visit sparked a new mission for the Potts family.

LEO’s Haven is an acronym for the three Potts children, Lauren, Evelyn and Oliver. Organizers held a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 13. 

“I used to live in Monterey County and I took my kids to the park and I know, as a parent how important that is,” Hurley said. “I’ve always wanted to see something like LEO’s Haven in Santa Cruz County. It’s projects like this that keep me in this line of work.”

LEO’s Haven, which was designed by Shane’s Inspiration and is being built by Granite Construction, will include a bathroom and parking lot and will be surrounded by community gardens, bike pump tracks, off-leash dog areas and picnic areas, which, Hurley said, will be built in various stages of the overall project.

Hurley said a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be in the works once the job is finished.

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