June 29, 2005 - Mayor Bill Haslam hosted
a celebration today to mark the opening of the Ashley Nicole Dream
Playground, the City of Knoxville's first universally accessible playground.
"This playground is a place where parents and children of
all abilities can play and learn together," Mayor Haslam said.
"This was a tremendous partnership between the City and committed
The need for the playground was born from the disappointment of
Ashley Nicole Manes, who was 4 when a 1999 accident left her paralyzed
from the neck down and dependent on a heavy, powered wheelchair
to move. Her mother, Tiffany Manes, took Ashley and her younger
sister to a playground after the accident, but when Allison ran
to the swings, Ashley was unable to follow.
Family and friends, working with the Disability Resource Center,
initiated the drive for the project, soliciting the support of the
City of Knoxville, creating its design and raising private donations.
Jim Howlett, owner of Howlett Equipment and father of a child with disabilities,
led a group of volunteers who devoted countless hours to erect the
playground, which consists of three major play structures - a fort,
a ship and playhouse.
A rubberized surface that covers the entire play area is the main
feature that sets this playground apart in terms of accessibility.
Plus, due to the surface's high level of shock absorption, it is
the safest surfacing on the market for all children.
The playground also makes extensive use of ramps allowing children
who use mobility adaptive devices, like wheelchairs, walkers, or
crutches to reach all sections of the playground.
The playground's creators want to add swings, a raceway area and
gardens. Financial assistance, in-kind donations, and volunteers
are still needed. Tax-deductible donations of any amount may be
mailed to: Ashley Nicole's Dream Playground Disability Resource
Center 900 E. Hill Ave., Suite 120 Knoxville, Tenn. 37915 For more
information on how to help, please see the organization's web site