Conditional use permit approved for all-inclusive special needs playground facility

Published 2:53 pm Thursday, September 23, 2021

Kendyl and Friends Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that got its start in Harrodsburg, has received approval for a conditional use permit to construct an all-inclusive playground facility in Boyle County for children and adults with special needs.

The decision was unanimous at a Sept. 21 Danville-Boyle County Board of Adjustments meeting, following a public hearing during which no one spoke in opposition to the development. The motion to approve was revised to specify that the building would not exceed 50 feet in height, rather than two stories.

The property is zoned agriculture and is approximately 4.8 acres located with a frontage on Hwy. 33, otherwise known as Shakertown Road, a state-maintained highway. The address is listed as 0 Shakertown Road, and the property owner is Josh Pingleton.

The applicant, Kendyl and Friends Foundation, Inc., sought a conditional use permit instead of filing to rezone the property as commercial to simplify the process and because community services qualify under acceptable institutional uses under the agriculture zoning classification, according to a staff report. Planning and Zoning Director Steve Hunter said vocational training for people with physical or mental disabilities can fall under the community services category.

Some of the plans for the property include an indoor space for educational programs to teach life skills and other information, an indoor playground, an indoor gym and eventually an indoor-outdoor therapeutic pool, an outdoor playground and an outdoor handicap-accessible baseball field.

Prior to the board opening the floor to the public — only a handful of community members were present — Founder and Executive Director of Kendyl and Friends Foundation, Inc. Crimson Claycomb shared how the organization began, and her vision for the property and for the future of the organization.

She began with a story about her daughter, Kendyl, who was born with no disabilities but got meningitis when she was 3 weeks old. Claycomb said doctors said Kendyl had a 2% chance to live, and if she did survive, she would be “nothing more than a vegetable.” Now, Kendyl is almost 11 years old. Claycomb said she wanted to raise her like any kid, though she is in a wheelchair, is nonverbal, has seven brain tumors and is partially blind in both eyes.

“She’s super happy, super fun, and we wouldn’t change her for anything,” Claycomb said.

Kendyl has not been in a special education program; she goes to school with her peers and friends and goes on field trips.

“When Kendyl was in kindergarten, we went on a field trip, and I got her out, and I’m playing with her, packing her up and down the playground, and I tripped and fell with her, and it freaked me out,” Claycomb said. “I was so nervous. I thought I’d hurt my baby.”

Claycomb was upset and told Kendyl she couldn’t navigate her around on the playground anymore. Kendyl didn’t understand and thought she had done something wrong. She didn’t realize Claycomb wasn’t trying to punish her or take her playtime away.

So, Claycomb and a group of friends went walking around the track at Anderson Dean Community Park in Harrodsburg, and they talked about how they needed to build a playground where Kendyl and people like her could play. The kids drew her a playground, and Claycomb said it was amazing to watch.

This began Claycomb’s journey to build an all-inclusive playground. She contacted playground companies, and five months and 22 days later, she and a group had fundraised about $300,000 to build what is now Kendyl and Friends Playground at Anderson Dean Community Park. She quickly learned many individuals don’t have opportunities like the playground — she was contacted by counties around the state wanting help with inclusivity, and now Kendyl and Friends has nine playgrounds around the state.

“It’s just something that, you don’t understand the need until you do it and see how many people come to use it,” Claycomb said.

In 2017, Kendyl and Friends was approved as a nonprofit organization. It operates off donations and provides its services at no cost to its participants.

A goal with Kendyl and Friends is to create care, education and recreation facilities for people like Kendyl who may not be potty-trained or qualify for adult care programs, Claycomb said.

“Our entire goal for Kendyl and Friends has always been to eventually have some sort of facility that is designed and modified for individuals like my daughter,” she said.

Right now, there’s no Kendyl and Friends location with aquatic facilities or indoor facilities yet. Not having an indoor space can be problematic for people like Kendyl who have trouble controlling their body temperatures and may react adversely to extreme temperatures, and not many aquatic facilities have filtration systems catered to people who are not potty-trained and need to wear diapers.

Claycomb said the nearest aquatic facility where she can take Kendyl is at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and it’s more than a two-hour drive, which is why she said more localized and accommodating aquatic recreational facilities are important.

Since the organization’s development relies entirely on funding, Claycomb said development will happen on the property on Shakertown Road step by step. For example, it may start with the baseball field and then gradually expand as funding allows, eventually including the building complete with indoor facilities. How many people there will be coming and going from the location also depends on what’s available, when services are operating and won funding. The goal is to be a seven-days-a-week facility with educational programs about eight hours per day and games on Saturdays, and educational programs would be done on a sign-up basis.

One of the conditions of the development is the property be limited to one access point along Hwy. 33, and the location and configuration would be coordinated with the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Kendal Wise, an engineer with Vantage Engineering, said prior to Kendyl and Friends looking at the property, a developer was looking to put a Dollar General location on the property, and there were preliminary conversations with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet about the entrance off the street and it was decided as the safest option, and the commercial retail store would have meant a much higher traffic volume than the Kendyl and Friends development will.

Claycomb said the organization has looked at several properties and kept coming back to this one due to its centralized location in the state, and because even though people come to Kendyl and Friends playgrounds from many counties, Boyle County residents make up a large portion, about 34%. She said the development is also a tourism opportunity — it will draw people in from many areas.

After the decision to approve, board chair George Coomer said he thinks the Kendyl and Friends development will be great for the community and will set it apart.

Board member Lonnie McGuire said, “I want to stand up and clap.”