New playground offers a place for disabled children

BY Bill Reagan

Harlingen broke ground on new playgrounds this past week. Each playground is designed with special needs children and adults in mind. Many communities have a special needs playground. Harlingen will soon have three, one at Lon C. Hill Park, another in Pendleton Park, the third in Victor Park.

Funding for the playgrounds comes from the City of Harlingen, Harlingen CISD, the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, the Sunburst Rotary Club and the Rollins and Amalie Koppel Foundation.

Officials visited similar playgrounds in other cities and have incorporated the best ideas from those cities into Harlingen’s new parks.

Now Harlingen residents with disabilities will be able to climb and swing along with everyone else.

Our city has seen a number of important advances in recreational and quality of life opportunities in recent years.

New bicycle and walking trails, improvements to Hugh Ramsey Nature Center, the new aquatic center and a bike share program give Harlingen residents numerous opportunities to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air.

Our city participates in the It’s Time Texas Community Challenge, a program which encourages healthy activities across the state. This year’s challenge includes a friendly competition between Harlingen and our friends in Brownsville.

That’s a pretty healthy list.

But these things do not happen by chance. The Mayor’s Wellness Council plans and coordinates much of the healthy lifestyle improvements in our city.

We’ve known for many years that the major health challenge in the Rio Grande Valley is obesity and diabetes. Our rates of these maladies are twenty-five percent higher than in the rest of the country. The rates are highest among the lower income members of our community.

Many in our community need to make better lifestyle choices, but do not have the resources to join a gym. These projects provide an infrastructure that enables all our city’s residents to make those healthy choices.

Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.