NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – The City of Negaunee is currently accepting applications to be part of a new committee tasked with developing a plan for a community sensory park. The new park aims to be inclusive of all children, with specific elements catered to be accessible for children with mental and physical disabilities. City Manager Nate Heffron says the idea was introduced at a previous community input session on the development of separate playground in the city.

“Instead of building the same type of parks throughout our community, which has traditionally been done, we’re taking a strong focus on creating a park system that can be utilized by all individuals within our community as much as possible,” Heffron said. “So we have a park over on Ann Street that is severely underutilized and this is where the location of our sensory park will be. We’re looking to revamp that park, providing the different elements that this committee will come up with, and making sure that it meets the needs of the children that have these disabilities.”

The window for applications is currently open through 4 p.m. on March 11. The committee will consist of five people in total, and any resident of Negaunee aged 18 or older is eligible to apply.

Heffron says that parents of children with disabilities or people with experience working with children with disabilities are encouraged to apply in order to provide valuable insight into how the park should be designed. Along with aiding development in children who use the park, safety will be a major factor in the park’s final design.

While a definitive timeline isn’t yet ironed out, the committee should begin work in the coming weeks.

“The hope is we will seat the committee sometime here this month, sit down, talk about what their duties are, their job is, and then we’ll put them on their tasks and start working through this,” Heffron said. “And we would hope that the committee could be done with their work by December or January. There is no deadline, per se, again we want to make sure this is done right.”

Heffron says when the committee’s work is completed, their final recommendations for the park’s design will proceed to Negaunee’s Parks and Recreation Commission, followed by the Negaunee City Council for final approval. From there, the city will begin looking into funding options for the park when a more solid idea of the total cost is in place. In total, Heffron says the current hope is for the park to be built within about three years.

Even for Negaunee residents who are not part of the official committee, the city plans to reach out for community input throughout the committee’s timeline.

“As we go through this process, there will be opportunities for parents in the community to interject and give their feelings on this park, or give ideas on this park through public engagement process,” Heffron said. “So when you see those opportunities come up on our Facebook site or you hear about them through other means, we encourage you to please come out, give your thoughts and opinions on the matter, and we’ll see where this takes us.”

To stay up to date on the committee, you can follow the City of Negaunee on Facebook.