Fresno's Universally Accessible Park supporters look to the future

The Fresno BeeMay 8, 2014 

Advocates for green space and the disabled gathered Thursday on a dusty lot in Fresno for a group cheer.

Universally Accessible Park -- which mostly likely someday will be known as Inspiration Park -- is guaranteed to become a reality.

"Congratulations, Fresno. This is the moment we all have been waiting for," Mayor Ashley Swearengin told about 300 people at the park site on Gettysburg Avenue, a short distance west of Polk Avenue.

Council Member Blong Xiong, who represents this neighborhood west of Highway 99, has been pushing for the park's construction since he took office in January 2007.

"This is what our community is about," Xiong said. "We're fighting for everyone. Congratulations, folks."

So it went for about a half-hour.

Speakers praised the vision for Inspiration Park, with its special features for the disabled and traditional charms for the general public.

They hailed Resources for Independence, Central Valley, the nonprofit that filled a big void by promising to take care of the park and deliver programming at its community center.

They thanked Central Unified School District for teaming with City Hall to make sure the park has enough land and parking spaces.

The crowd gave as good as it got, applauding at just about every pause.

There was no groundbreaking ceremony. The grand opening with ribbon-cutting is slated for 2015. Thursday's event appeared to have no purpose than to get long-time allies together for a collective sigh of relief.

And with good reason. The proposed $9 million park has faced one hurdle after another for nearly a decade. Money was the big problem. The City Council last month finally decided there was enough cash in the till (including $5 million from a state grant) and enough promise for future funds (maintenance) to take a calculated gamble on construction.

The journey is over. Park supporters on Thursday couldn't stop smiling and shaking hands.

Money for daily operations remains a challenge. That was another reason for the event. Inspiration Park's stakeholders want everyone to know they'll soon be open for business.

Said Swearengin: "They're going to need a lot of help."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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