- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Dubuque officials have approved plans for an all-inclusive field at a city park, supporting an effort to build a leveled, rubberized surface that could be used by children who have disabilities.

Volunteers plan to raise $3.5 million in private donations for the project at Veterans Memorial Park, The Telegraph Herald (http://bit.ly/2nb6UDv ) reported.

“This is a very vital and important project that will add to quality of life throughout the region. … for persons of all abilities, not just persons with disabilities,” Marty Johnson, project architect for Straka Johnson Architects, told council members.

Local nonprofit Miracle League of Dubuque aims add a baseball field and playground with the flat surface to the park. Additional facilities, which include concession stands, restrooms, changing rooms and classrooms, would be fully accessible to people with physical and mental disabilities.

Dubuque Community School District data show that nearly 1,700 children in the district have been diagnosed with a disability. According to the organization, more than 4,000 children with disabilities live in the surrounding area.

“The Miracle League of Dubuque baseball field and all-inclusive playground will offer everyone the opportunity to experience the joy of being part of a team,” said Merl Santjer, board president of Miracle League of Dubuque.

The city’s department of leisure services would operate and maintain the new field once it’s constructed. City staff will begin negotiating an agreement with the nonprofit that would outline specific improvements, fundraising, construction and use after the project is finished. That agreement would come back to the council for approval.

Santjer said the organization hopes to play its first game on the new field in the fall of 2018.

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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