Wednesday, November 26, 2014

City officials make time for play on trip to conference

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 10/4/2013

Promoting play in everyday situations was just one of the messages taken from a recent conference on the east coast, Wynndee Lee said Friday morning.

Lee, the City of Ottawa’s director of planning and codes, and Ottawa Mayor Sara Caylor recently returned from a conference in Baltimore, Md., where Ottawa was just one of 12 playful cities selected to attend the conference, Lee said at the First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa.

Promoting play in everyday situations was just one of the messages taken from a recent conference on the east coast, Wynndee Lee said Friday morning.

Lee, the City of Ottawa’s director of planning and codes, and Ottawa Mayor Sara Caylor recently returned from a conference in Baltimore, Md., where Ottawa was just one of 12 playful cities selected to attend the conference, Lee said at the First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa.

“We were the smallest of the cities to go,” Lee said. “We got to hear from great speakers like Kathleen Sebelius [U.S. Health and Human Service secretary and former Kansas governor] and other national folks doing things they want to see help the lives and health of our children.”

The Ottawa Play Taskforce has been raising money to build a new playground that would replace the timber playground located north of the tennis courts in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa. The new playground is expected to be located west of the current playground to make it closer to the parking lot, taskforce members said previously. The new playground is designed with “lots of features to encourage active and inclusive play, or play that works lots of muscles, is accessible and inclusive for those with disabilities, challenging for all ages, but fun,” a release from the Ottawa Play Taskforce said.

To date, $134,000 has been raised for the project, including a $20,000 KaBOOM! grant and $70,000 in park funds from alcohol taxes that have been pledged for the project by the city, Lee said previously. That amount is still shy of the group’s $150,000 goal.

After the Baltimore conference, Caylor and Lee went to Washington, D.C., where they were able to meet with senators and visit the KaBOOM! office, Lee said.

“We got to meet with [KaBOOM!] again and tell them how grateful we are for their money,” Lee said. “They have a park bench, signs, a chalkboard, and they have a tire swing, and we all thought that was such fun to get on and do something like that. They had all kinds of toys to keep them interested in what they’re doing.”

Recess and play time is important to keeping kids healthy, Lee said, but she was surprised to find out that not all schools still keep recess as a part of school.

“We learned we’re blessed to be in a part of the country where recess is still important because there were some places where they cut recess completely out of their school day,” Lee said. “We believe it’s important for the kids to have that. And we’re pleased to know we don’t have that problem.”

Play doesn’t have to be structured, Lee said, and incorporating it outside of playgrounds is a big deal.

“Don’t be surprised if, in the next year or two, you see some new things along our trails,” she said. “It doesn’t all have to be a system, and the idea is that you can create play along your trails.”

Playtime is more than just keeping kids healthy and active, Richard Nienstedt, city manager, said.

“This is about building a connection with our children and grandchildren,” Nienstedt said. “So they grow up and they remember these good memories. ... And can say ‘I had a great experience there and the community said that youths were important.’”

Lee reiterated the main message was to promote play in all activities, and said just because family members might not live in the area, doesn’t mean they can’t help out other children.

“While you may not have your grandchildren around here in town, that doesn’t mean you can’t take some other children down and get them out in the park and play,” Lee said. “Figure out those things so we can have great relationships whether your kids are here or not because that’s what makes us a community family — and that makes us stronger as a community.”

comments powered by Disqus