• 9 Investigates access issues at local parks

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    A local kindergarten student, trying to navigate his way through the parking lot of Orange County’s Blanchard Park, flipped his wheelchair on top of himself due to the uneven surface.

    He wasn’t hurt, but video taken during the incident is prompting changes at that park. 

    9 Investigates pushed for answers and now county leaders are paving handicapped parking spots and pathways there.

    “Pushing the wheelchair all the way in, it’s a challenge,” Eida Garcia said.  Her 8-year-old daughter, Nineska uses a wheelchair.

    “Honestly, I’ve avoided playgrounds for a long, long time because of this,” Ninoshka Gorie said, referring to her daughter Ayanaliz Garcia’s wheelchair.

    The play equipment at Blanchard Park stands on a solid, smooth surface, but special needs families noted a lack of pathways from handicapped parking to get to the play equipment.

    The lot next to nearby sports fields proved potentially dangerous when Chance Kern flipped his wheelchair.

    “It’s very dangerous, even for me to push him, I feel like it will fall forward on me if I’m not careful,” Chance’s mom, Amanda Kern, said.

    Orange County is spending $48,000 to pave 10 ADA parking spaces and pathways.  Though parks leaders admit there are other lots made with the same material, there are no countywide plans to pave them.

    “If people don't ask, and people don't demand, and people say this is something I need to do or I could use, then nothing is going to happen,” Disability attorney Matthew Dietz said.

    Dietz points out the law requires slip-resistant pathways to all services within public parks.  If problems are pointed out and not addressed, it can lead to lawsuits.

    Orange County has nearly $30-million worth of projects underway to improve access countywide through upgrades and new parks, and there are fully-inclusive playgrounds including Downey Park and the brand new Young Pine Community Park.  Both of those parks allow wheelchair-bound kids to roll right up onto the playground.

    Parks leaders wouldn’t go on camera with us, but they told us in a statement, “We strive to make all of our more than 100 Orange County parks accessible to every citizen.  We have "shell rock" parking lots throughout the County park system and we continue to improve the older parks like Blanchard Park - which was built in 1970 - through phased improvements as funding becomes available.”

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