Gonzales City Council asked to approve $200,000 for Kidz Kove Park

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor

Gonzales City Council was asked to approve $200,000 to begin construction on Kidz Kove Park, the city's first park for disabled children.

Kidz Kove Park proponent Leslie Ickes spoke at the council meeting Monday night.

"We've raised $700,000, but we need $1 million to start construction," she said of work done by the Project Kidz Kove Board of Directors.

She said the project started two-and-a-half years ago to raise funds for the playground which will include special equipment for physically- and sensory-challenged children. She added the special equipment allows disabled children to play alongside able-bodied children.

Ickles started out by telling the council she and her husband Ben are the proud parents of two beautiful boys, 11-year-old Luke and 8-year-old Caleb. She said Luke, born premature, is now confined to a wheelchair.

"Many parks are not handicap accessible," she said.

Ickles said she would spend an hour in the car taking her children to Mandeville where they could play together at a park for disabled children.

"Gonzales deserves a place like this," she said, adding it will serve a large population throughout the area.

She said there are approximately 500 children in Ascension Parish with physical handicaps, and another 1,500 with developmental delays such as Autism and other disorders.

In addition to children in the parish, Ickles said families from across the region will come to Kidz Kove Park.

"It will be an asset to our city," she said "Our kids deserve the opportunity to play in a park in our city and community."

Her 11-year-old son Luke also spoke at the meeting, asking the council to help fund the park. He said he would like to see it completed before he and his younger brother are grown.

Councilman Kirk Boudreaux suggested the council put the $200,000 in the city's budget.

"I think we can look and find money for this project," he said.

Councilman Kenny Matassa and Mayor Barney Arceneaux also spoke in favor of the project. The mayor said public hearings for the project will begin in March.

"I'm going to recommend it," he said.

Councilman Timothy Vessel expressed concerns about investing $200,000 in this project versus other organizations such as the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts.

"The land is owned by the city," said City Attorney Ryland Percy, explaining Project Kidz Kove has been developing the park using privately raised funds.

Ickles said the City of Gonzales dedicated the land to Project Kidz Kove, but once completed it will be turned over to the city to manage.

"We are building the city a $1 million park," she said.

In other business, the city approved a special events permit to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

Jamie Savoy requested the permit to hold an AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk, from 9 to 11 a.m., Oct. 5, at Jambalaya Park. She said AFSP is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicides.

The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Feb. 25, at City Hall.