Friday, April 29, 2016

TOP STORY >> Beebe defends playground rules

Leader staff writer

Is setting age limits for children using the playgrounds at Beebe’s ballparks a safety concern or age discrimination?

Beebe parent Miranda Davis has concerns over the play areas at the ballpark being limited for children of certain ages.

She contacted the mayor and city council alleging parks director Lynn Hatcher on Monday kicked 15 older children out of the playground during the ball games and made them stay in the parking lot without notifying parents.

Davis has a 15-year-old son, Keegan, with autism, a 12-year-old son, Aiden, and a 9-year-old son, Peyton.

Davis claims that on Tuesday Hatcher said the playground was only for use by children 12 years old and under. They have used the playground since last year and have not had any problems, she said.

Then on Tuesday, he changed his position after being showed proof of a child’s age and said that the playground was for use for children ages 10 and under.

There are no signs at the playground that limits age. Another playground at the ballpark has signs saying its for kids ages 6 and younger.

She said Hatcher told them the policy is to keep the little children safe.

“It’s like it changed overnight,” Keegan Pate said.

“As a mom I shouldn’t have to make a decision to watch my child play ball or sit in the parking lot with my son,” Davis said.

“Why not post signs with rules about horseplay and roughhousing and address the behavior instead of excluding a whole group of kids? It is a public facility. Something should be done for the older kids. You can’t kick them out of the park. They are here playing and not getting in trouble. It is a good thing for this age group. It is just unfair, there should be something done,” Davis said.

“As a taxpayer and a voter, I do not appreciate city facilities discriminating on any basis, including age. In addition to paying taxes, I pay recreation fees and my family and friends donate heavily to recreational activities,” Davis said.

When asked about having playground equipment in an area for older children to use at the Beebe ballpark, Hatcher said, “If the council approves it we can make such a playground. It can be brought up at the next council meeting,” Hatcher said.

Mayor Mike Robertson sent an email in response to Davis’ concerns. He said he’s heard complaints for mothers of younger children about not having signs posted on age restrictions. New signs will be re-installed designating the playground for kids 10 years of age and younger.

“This play structure was installed within a six-foot high fenced area for small children activity to be safe from parking lot access, direct baseball activity and to allow smaller children play activity while older brothers or sisters participated in ballgames,” Robertson said.

“Older children have never been allowed access to this area since installation until recently with the removal of the old signage during renovation. There have been numerous complaints during this season of larger, 12 years and older children dominating the play structure in the presence of small children; attempting to play, running, cutting in front, stepping over the smaller children even climbing onto the rooftops jumping from one to the other,” Robertson said.

“This play structure was installed in 1996 and soon after installation, park officials were confronted with the same problem,” Robertson said.

Robertson said as mayor in 1996, he instructed park officials to place signs on the play area excluding older children out of concern for the health, safety and welfare of the younger children.