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Gov. Cooper's $9.6M commitment to make parks accessible for everyone

The state will leave it up to local communities on how they want to advance and improve spaces that welcome anyone.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — As the weather gets warmer, many take refuge in local parks to break away from the hustle of life. In some cases, those recreational spots can instead be cumbersome without the right equipment to provide the escape from reality.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper pledged $9.6 million to create more inclusive parks around the state and four projects are in the Charlotte area.

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"It's a variety of things that people with disabilities can experience so it's not just a one size fits all, but make sure if it's accessible for one, it's accessible for all," Curtis Hill, an advocate with Disability Rights North Carolina, said.

Hill believes the commitment is a step in the right direction. The grants answer the calls of advocates like Hill and communities across the state asking for spaces that can be utilized by anyone.

The money will bring things like swings and slides that could be utilized by someone in a wheelchair. Two parks in Mecklenburg County -- Roosevelt Wilson Park in the town of Davidson and Abernathy Park in Huntersville -- will each receive more than $150,000 to build improvements.

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Reid Wilson said local governments will make the decision on how to improve their parks with the grant funding.

"I've seen a park in North Carolina where it is wheelchair accessible for a kid to get up and come down a slide," Wilson said. "I didn't think that type of thing existed but it's pretty neat that parks are being built so more people can use them."

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Watauga's Howard Knob Park and Iredell County's Jennings Park are also receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to build up access.

There were more than 40 applications with 21 projects funding. The numbers highlight the need to make our world more inclusive no matter the ability.

Contact Colin Mayfield at cmayfield@wcnc.com or follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

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