Special needs park group asks Gonzales council for help

The group rallying to build a park for children with special needs has turned to the city of Gonzales for additional help in finishing the project.

Project Kidz Kove, which is planning Kidz Kove Discovery Park on Cornerview Road, is about $200,000 short of being able to begin construction, Leslie Ickes, a board member, told the Gonzales City Council on Monday.

The group has raised a little more than $725,000 since fall 2010.

“I understand the need for a park where you can take both of your kids to play,” said Ickes, who has an 11-year-old special needs son, Luke, and an 8-year-old son, Caleb.

Ickes asked the council and Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux to make $150,000 to $200,000 available for Kidz Kove during the city’s next fiscal year, which begins in July.

Arceneaux said city officials will begin the budgeting process next month.

“We’re going to take a hard look at it,” the mayor said, pledging to the group that he would recommend making the funding available.

Councilman Kirk Boudreaux said he supports the park.

“I would like to see us put it into our budget this year to get this park started,” Boudreaux said. “I think it’ll be a great asset.”

Plans call for a pirate ship-themed park, which will feature soft surfacing and specially designed bathrooms, to be built on land owned by the city near its Police Department office.

“We have thought of everything this park would need to handle any disability,” said Ickes, adding that parents of the estimated 2,000 children in Ascension Parish with physical or mental disabilities drive to Mandeville to the nearest special needs park.

After the park is constructed, it will be donated to and maintained by the city.

The group already has purchased the playground equipment, which costs nearly $285,000 and is being stored while more money is being raised for park construction, Ickes said.

Ickes said she and other project volunteers feel a sense of urgency to finish it because they have invested nearly three years and have raised more than 75 percent of the money.

“We’re ready to build this park,” Ickes said. “I’m ready to build it sooner than later so my son is not too old to use it after we work on it for five more years.”

Her son made similar comments.

“I need a place where we don’t feel left out,” Luke Ickes, who uses a wheelchair, told the council. “I want to feel normal. I don’t want to be 16 by the time it’s done. I really don’t.”