park for all

Inclusive, innovative park opens for Houstonians of all abilities

James Driver Park is the city's first all-inclusive space. Photo courtesy of Harris County Precinct 2

In a city lush with greenspace, Houston is about to debut a first. James Driver Inclusive Park, when it opens on Saturday, December 11, will be the first community park created specifically for visitors of every experience, ability, and special need on the spectrum.

Attendees can join the ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony that starts at noon at the park in Aldine (10918 Bentley St.); Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia will lead the ceremonies.

“James Driver Inclusive Park will be the flagship park for Precinct 2 and all of Harris County,” Garcia tells CultureMap. “I expect it to transform how we all think about community spaces and inclusivity. Approximately half a million residents of Harris County live with some sort of physical or cognitive disability, yet, somehow, this park is the first of its kind in Harris County. James Driver Park will be a game-changer for so many families who have children with mobility or sensory issues or even parents who are in wheelchairs.”

Key park amenities include:

  • An improved and widened walking trail that will accommodate two people in wheelchairs, side by side
  • A playground featuring specially designed, wheelchair-friendly equipment where kids can spin, sway, swing, slide and splash
  • An outdoor gaming and fitness area featuring bocce, shuffleboard, chess tables, corn hole, bean bag toss and fitness equipment
  • A misting area and plenty of shade, providing relief from the heat
  • A remodeled and expanded community center, open in back to reveal lush green space
  • A covered dining space and outdoor picnic areas
  • A sensory garden featuring indigenous perennials
  • An event lawn and pavilion for musical and other entertainment
  • An art wall for installations of art by local artists
  • A cistern that will capture rainwater for water play and irrigationA METRO bus stop and plenty of parking
  • A designated parking area for taco and other food trucks

Parents and families can look for these key features for those with special needs, per press materials:

Big bridge
The bridge’s design allows for self-regulated play experiences for children of all ages and abilities to exercise risk, failure, and mastery. An extra-wide ramp and bridge (8 feet) allows for people in wheelchairs and/or mobility devices to easily pass side by side barrier free.

Three play towers offer graduated challenges for climbing, sliding, and balancing, while the overall 80-foot long structure offers areas of respite for all ages and abilities to enjoy the park from above.

Shoulder wheel and serpentine path
These two peripheral elements are designed for older adults or persons with mobility challenges to exercise independently. The shoulder wheel is designed specifically to increase shoulder mobility; the serpentine path uses hand/eye coordination to strengthen small motor skills.

Sensory garden
Studies show the greener the play area, the better the concentration and mental function. The sensory garden utilizes a crazy maze, rolling bells, and serpentine path to foster motor skills and hand eye coordination.

A key element is the ability here to easily withdraw from the active play area but still feel incorporated in the activity as an onlooker for those who may get overwhelmed easily. The sensory garden also appeals to at least one of the five senses; sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.

For those not local, Garcia notes that the greenspace is well worth the drive for its inclusivity, tangible benefits, and its ability to create a joyful, all encompassing experience. “This park allows families to all play together,” he adds.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Just after announcing an investment from United, NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc. scored a SPAC-based IPO. Photo via nextrenewables.com

It’s been a momentous month for Houston-based NEXT Renewable Fuels Inc.

On November 15, United Airlines Ventures announced an investment of up to $37.5 million in the next-generation, low-carbon fuel producing company.

Just a week later, the company revealed it’s going public through a SPAC merger with Industrial Tech Acquisitions II Inc. The deal, expected to close in the second quarter of 2023, assigns a $666 million equity value to NEXT. The publicly traded company will be named NXTCLEAN Fuels Inc.

NEXT, founded in 2016, produces low-carbon fuels from organic feedstock. The company plans to open a biofuel refinery in Port Westward, Oregon, that’s set to start production in 2026. The refinery could produce up to 50,000 barrels per day of sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, and other renewable fuels.

“West Coast states are demanding a clean fuels conversion of the transportation and aviation industries with aggressive targets necessitating rapid increases in clean fuel supplies,” Christopher Efird, executive chairman and CEO of NEXT, says in a news release. “[The company] is advancing toward becoming one of the largest U.S.-based suppliers of clean fuels for these markets, and is investigating and pursuing potential vertical expansion into other clean fuels.”

The proposed public listing of NEXT’s stock on the Nasdaq market and United’s investment are poised to help NEXT reach its goal of becoming a leader in the clean fuel sector. United’s investment appears to be the first equity funding for NEXT.

“Right now, one of the biggest barriers to increasing supply and lowering costs of sustainable fuel is that we don’t have the infrastructure in place to transport it efficiently, but NEXT’s strategic location and assets solve that problem and provide a blueprint for future facilities that need to be built,” Michael Leskinen, president of United Airline Ventures, says in a news release.

United’s investment arm, launched in 2021, targets ventures that will complement the airline’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

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