Gary Newsome

(Rock Hill, S.C.) – Rock Hill is working to build one of the very first all-inclusive parks in the nation.

City leaders officially broke ground in December for Miracle Park, a 15-acre, $8 million project that has been in the making since 2017.

The park is expected to have five ball fields total, with two of them being “miracle fields” designed for anyone to be able to play on, while the rest will be multipurpose.

The York County Disabilities Foundation is one of the many groups working on construction of the park.

Alice Davis, a member of the group, was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast to share more information about the park.

Davis said that the inspiration for Miracle Park came about after spending a lot of time thinking about a project the foundation could work on using money they had already raised.

“My brother actually has a nephew in a wheelchair that plays in Greenville on a miracle league and he was telling us about it. We said we wanted to have a miracle league in Rock Hill. We dreamed big and we decided to push forward with our big, big plan instead of just a field,” said Davis.

The Disabilities Foundation has an executive team that consists of five people alongside a committee of nearly 50 people in different areas like construction, design, marketing and programming.

Lightner Constructions is the contractor hired to obtain subcontractors around the community to help build the park. Many of these subcontractors are doing their work using at little to no cost.

The park is currently being built in different phases and phase one is planned to be completed by the end of the year. In this phase, the park will unveil one of its miracle league fields, which are playing fields adapted for people with all abilities. There will be a regular playing field for use as well.

The rubberized surface that the miracle league fields are constructed with make it very easy for wheelchairs or walkers to move across them. It also allows people, who struggle with balance, to fall without the risk of being injured. The surfaces are also similar to those you would find underneath playgrounds.

The first phase consists of the playground as well as all the infrastructure for the park’s 15 acres. Davis hopes that the entire playground will be put down by the end of phase one, however they may not have all the pieces in time depending on funding.

There is going to be a concession area and bathrooms with adult changing stations. There will also be a sensory area with a taste and smell garden.

“A lot of little kids like to look down the ground. Maybe you have to do a cartwheel or you have to take two steps here. You might have to wave your hands in the air, just different things that it tells you to do as you go along to really help them move bodies in different ways,” said Davis.

Phase two will include multipurpose fields, which will allow for people to play football, soccer, golf, basketball and more.

“We’re trying to work with the PGA (Professional Golf Association) to figure out how we can best make it most accessible and adaptable for folks to be able to drive the ball, putt it, chip it in all different ways,” said Davis.

In phase three, there will be a retail space constructed, which will allow people with all abilities to be able to work to build their resumes.

“A lot of times it’s difficult to find those first jobs no matter what your ability is and this gives an opportunity for those jobs to be able to be given more easily and to be able to build a resume so we can all get out in the world to do our part and have the jobs that we all want to have in life,” said Davis.

She said it’s unclear what businesses will fill the retail space, but there have been talks about having stores for clothing, adaptive athletic equipment, a food café and a coffee shop.

Davis said the group could use help raising money and awareness of the project.

She said they are always looking for third-party fundraisers and if anyone wants to host a fundraiser for the park, the group can help people get started.

“I know Winthrop has got a great group of college kids that would be wonderful at putting on fundraisers and having fun but raising money for a good cause,” said Davis. “Even a fundraiser that brings in $100 is bringing in awareness.”

Davis said she hopes that Miracle Park helps people understand the idea of parallel play and coming together.

“This is not a park for children or adults with special needs. This is a park for everybody. We want everyone to know there is a space for them and there’s a part for them in this park,” said Davis.

Davis said she hopes Miracle Park becomes a model that will stretch across the nation.

“This is that piece we were missing. We were missing that opportunity for everybody in Rock Hill to have an opportunity to play. This is a great way to bring everybody in no matter what their want is, their desire, what sport they want to be a part or if they just want to play in an open green space,” said Davis.

A number of Winthrop students expressed their support for the project, which is being built near the school’s athletic fields.

“I think it’s fascinating that they are not only trying to include not only younger generations but also people with disabilities. I feel like people who are disabled often feel like they are left out and this is a great way for people to feel included,” said Isaiah DeSantis, a junior sports management major.

Travis Sims, a sophomore human development and family studies major, said he thinks it’s a terrific idea.

“I think it’s great it’s helping accommodate people with disabilities. It can also help people like me with albinism to keep out of the sun yet still enjoy going to the park,” said Sims.

Miracle Park can be found on social media through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The park is set to open this summer.