Santa Cruz Playground Project
The Santa Cruz Playground Project is a grassroots effort driven by Bob and Tricia Potts of Watsonville, CA. They have three children: Lauren, Evelyn, and Oliver. Oliver uses a wheelchair for mobility.
In December of 2013 the family attended the opening of Tatum’s Garden, an inclusive playground in Salinas. The children loved being able to play together without barriers, and the family came away with their eyes opened to the need for a fully inclusive playground in their own county of Santa Cruz.
They formed the Santa Cruz Playground Project; a group of volunteers who are working in a public-private partnership with Shane’s Inspiration, the County of Santa Cruz, and the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association to design, fundraise, and build LEO’s Haven at Chanticleer Park.
The Santa Cruz Playground Project Team
Patricia Potts has 15 years of elementary teaching experience ranging from K-8 to homeschooling her three children. She has also worked as an office manager for a medical clinic, an instructional design consultant, and a freelance writer for children’s publications. Her time now is spent in special needs advocacy.
Robert Potts is a husband and father of 3 who enjoys growing bonsai trees in his spare time. When not occupied with those duties, he is the Medical Director of the Dignity Hospitalist Physician Group at Dominican Hospital.
Core Volunteer Team
Amy Selover is a physical therapist with the California Children’s Medical Program. She specializes in working with pediatric patients who have orthopedic and neurological disabilities.
Becky Taylor is a commissioner on the Santa Cruz County Commission on Disabilities. She is also an author of the book, “Tell Me the Number Before Infinity,” the story of a girl with a quirky mind, an eccentric family, and oh yes, a disability.
Brenda Gutierrez-Baeza is an interpreter and was born with Fibromatosis Hyaline. She successfully fundraised $50k in 2015 for a robotic arm.
Charlotte Henderson, CFRE is a fundraising professional with 20 years experience in the non-profit sector. She has raised millions of dollars for health care, secondary and higher education as well as other non-profits.
Christine Betts is a pediatric physical therapist with almost 30 years of experience working with children with special needs. For the past 22 years she has been the Supervising Therapist for Monterey County California Children’s Services, a public agency that provides physical & occupational therapy to children with physical disabilities. Christine has had first hand recent experience with observing the benefits of an inclusive playground for children & families, as she has coordinated several special events for her patients at Tatum’s Garden, the inclusive playground built this past year in Salinas.
Diane Van Wagner is an occupational therapist at the California Children’s Medical Therapy Program whose whose primary area of practice is working with children 0-21 years old who have orthopedic and neurological disabilities. She is also the student internship supervisor and coordinator. She was a contractor of the US Department of Defense in Germany serving children in early intervention and school based therapy. She also has worked with senior adults as the lead OT in an adult day care health setting.
Ed Gagne is a local realtor currently with Bailey Properties. Prior to becoming a realtor 11 years ago, Ed spent 15 years in the semiconductor industry as an equipment engineer. A father of two daughters, he lives in Watsonville with his wife, Virginia.
Gaelyn Betts is a native of Santa Cruz. He has extensive work experience in the non-profit sector. He was also involved in planning and building a playground for a private school in the area.
Janet Crosse has been working at Easter Seals Central California as Development Manager since 2010. She also runs Wide Awakes, a club that provides social and recreational activities for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. For many years Janet worked at the Santa Cruz Sentinel and still has her hand in advertising by working with her favorite clients for Santa Cruz Style Magazine. Janet volunteers her time at Caroline’s Thrift Shop in Aptos and is the mother of a 23 years old son with Autism.
Mariah Roberts is Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation commissioner. She is also the Director of the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association and teaches at Santa Cruz Children’s School. Her background in Special Education and a continuing focus on Universal Design of public spaces gives her a passion for this project.
Martha Jacobson has worked for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District as a Behavior Technician, preschool teacher for children with Autism (Duncan Holbert), and for the last 15 years as a Home and Hospital teacher. The purpose of Home and Hospital is to provide instruction for students who are severely restricted and unable to attend school for health reasons.
Michael Rein is a husband and a father of two adult children. He’s loves volunteering but his wife makes him work for a living, so he’s been a practicing lawyer in real estate and business law for the past 31 years. Mike’s hobbies include volleyball, hiking and organizing community events for Scotts Valley schools and other non-profits.
Paul Jacobson worked for 10 years in the steel industry in Los Angeles. He married Martha in 1987 and that same year purchased a Snap-On Tool Franchise, relocating to Watsonville (eventually Aptos) in the process. Due to steady business growth, he has frequently been honored as one of the top 100 in the nation. Today he is starting a second franchise and enjoying the start-up challenges all over again.
Stacey Kyle has lived in Live Oak for the last ten years. She is a mom of two young children, the founding President of the Live Oak Education Foundation, and Director of Special Projects for the Live Oak School District. Before coming to the District, Dr. Kyle worked for WestEd, a research, development, and service agency working to improve educational outcomes for students.
Virginia Hennessey was a journalist for 30 years, the last 21 spent at The Monterey County Herald. She is now a private investigator. A mother of two, she lives in Watsonville with her husband, Ed.
Shane’s Inspiration–an international organization whose vision is to foster a bias-free world for children with disabilities–partners with communities worldwide to create inclusive playgrounds and programs that unite children of all abilities.
In 1997, two parents lost their newborn son, Shane to a degenerative condition. Searching for a way to honor his brief life, they rallied the Los Angeles, CA, community to create the first fully-inclusive playground in the Western United States: Shane’s Inspiration, which opened in 2000 in Griffith Park.
Today, a single playground has grown into a powerful inclusion movement. The organization has 60 inclusive playgrounds open nationally and internationally including in Sochi, Russia; Jerez, Mexico; Cuenca, Ecuador; British Columbia; and Israel. Nearly 100 additional projects are in development.
Once the playgrounds open, a Shane’s Inspiration program team supports the implementation of a family play club and an an ability awareness program, Together, We Are Able. These programs transform the playground into a classroom where children–with and without disabilities–learn to see beyond their differences and discover their shared humanity. Shane’s Inspiration is honored to partner with the Santa Cruz Playground Project and the County of Santa Cruz to support LEO’s Haven through fiscal sponsorship, playground design, development, and social inclusive programming. These services are free of charge due to a service grant Shane’s Inspiration awarded the Santa Cruz Playground Project and the County of Santa Cruz.
Watch the Videos
Where I Feel Like Me: see the impact a universally accessible playground has on all children including those with disabilities.
Together We are Able: watch how play helps children look beyond someone’s outward appearance to instead see amazing individuals with unique talents and abilities.
County of Santa Cruz: Department of Parks, Open Space, and Cultural Services
In 2015, the County of Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors voted to support a public-private partnership between the county, Shane’s Inspiration, the Santa Cruz Playground Project, and the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association to design, fundraise, and build LEO’s Haven as part of a Phase 1 Development of the Chanticleer Park master plan. The Santa Cruz Playground Project will raise approximately $1.93 million dollars for the playground, bathrooms, and a parking lot. The county–in addition to the $3.6 million already spent acquiring the property and master planning–has allocated $650,000 fur further design and park infrastructure costs. The parks department has also submitted grant applications and will continue to pursue additional funding options for vital infrastructure components.
Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association
LEO’s Haven will be built at Chanticleer Park which is located in Live Oak, an unincorporated community home to the third largest population in Santa Cruz County. Live Oak is richly diverse in ethnicity, mobility, socio-economics, and educational experience. Live Oak is home to higher-than-average numbers of families with small children, people living in poverty, elderly residents, and people with a disability–but there is no developed public park within the recommended one-half-mile around the Chanticleer Park neighborhood.
In the early 2000s, the local redevelopment agency worked to meet the needs of the Live Oak community. The RDA purchased the parcels of land that make up the 4 1/2 acre park site and tasked SSA Landscape Architects to design a beautiful master plan. Unfortunately, when the California fiscal crisis hit in 2010, redevelopment agencies across the state were defunded and the park funding disappeared. Concerned neighbors formed the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association and joined forces with the Count of Santa Cruz Parks Department to prevent the land from being sold off. With support from Supervisor John Leopold, an interim usage plan to keep the park open as a public resource was developed, featuring the bicycle pump track, the off-leash fenced dog run, and the community garden. However, a playground for the community seemed beyond the reach of this grassroots group.
In 2014, the Santa Cruz Playground Project presented their idea for an inclusive playground to the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association. The response was a unanimous vote of support.
Moving forward together, LEO’s Haven at Chanticleer Park has become a call to action. The knowledge that #AllKidsNeedToPlay, and all people deserve access to public green space propels this project forward with the energy and determination needed to bring the next chapter of the Chanticleer Park story to life.