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A park for the handicapped, which promoters say would be unmatched in the West, is planned for development on seven acres of county-owned land across from Creekside Park.

Plans include a swimming pool, playground, Special Olympics track, beeper softball area, wheelchair tennis court, basketball courts with specially contoured surfaces and goals for the visually impaired, a group picnic pavilion and amphitheater, shuffleboard and other amenities on a site on Murray-Holladay Boulevard across from Kings Row Drive.The project began with the Holladay Lions Club, which is sponsoring the park's development and plans to begin raising money next week - a lot of money. Club First Vice President Larry Weinsheimer said the park will be an improvement over a similar facility in Phoenix that was developed 2 1/2 years ago at a cost of $3 million. "Before we're through we'll be in this $4 million to $5 million if we do all of the things the handicapped folks want us to do."

Back in 1943, the Holladay Lions Club's charter year, then-president Alex Adamson wanted to build a park for the handicapped, Weinsheimer said. In 1988, Adamson saw his dream begin to materialize when seven acres of an 87-acre tract the county bought for recreational development in the early 1970s was designated as a site for the park.

Salt Lake County planner and landscape architect Don Davis said the development for the handicapped complements the county's plan to string existing recreational developments and undeveloped county-owned land in the area together into a regional park.

"The county picked it up as a sensory garden," Weinsheimer said, but the Lions had something more in mind than a trail lined with touch-and-feel plants and learned of the park built in Phoenix by retired telephone workers.

So the group took Salt Lake golf course architect Bill Neff and went to see the Phoenix complex. Weinsheimer said he believes the trip enabled Neff and the other planners to develop a proposal that not only has better access for the handicapped but can be enjoyed more by non-handicapped family members as well.

The next nearest facility the Lions have been able to study is a one-acre children's park in Baton Rouge, La.

The Lions have also met with Special Olympics officials and representatives from other groups for the handicapped to help design the facilities. The county has set aside the land and is also involved to the tune of $25,000 - $4,500 of which was spent on an interest and needs survey the county performed.

Davis said the survey showed the development needs to be particularly accessible to people whose handicaps are the result of aging. "Statistics show we need to concentrate on the needs of senior citizens."

The Lions have "fairly tentative commitments" from several Salt Lake-area businesses and foundations, Weinsheimer said.

The Utah National Guard is also being asked to Help clear Russian Elms from the site, Weinsheimer said. "Then we'll start on the first project - the swimming pool," which he hopes will be under construction next year. The construction of additional facilities will follow as fast as money can be raised.

Davis is also working with the Lions Club to make preliminary designs compatible with contours in the land so much of the existing vegetation can be saved and worked into the landscape.



Breakfast benefit

Formal fund raising for the park will begin Saturday, July 21, with a breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. in the pavilion at Creekside Park in Holladay. The cost is $3 for adults and $1.50 for children and senior citizens.