VALDOSTA -- Children savor the freedom of sailing high into a blue-and-white speckled sky obstructed only by gusts of air that whiz by in a dizzying array.
Countless kids swing at a number of Valdosta parks, and a year ago the Valdosta Junior Service League raised $9,000 to install handicapped-accessible equipment at McKey Park on Burton Avenue.
For the first time in many children's lives, the ability to swing was at their fingertips.
Today, only one handicapped-accessible swing remains, the three others removed by parks and recreation officials after several able-bodied children piled into the swings, testing how many feet could not touch the ground, and strained the hook mechanism, which now needs to be replaced.
Brockey Brock, director of Valdosta-Lowndes Recreation, Parks and Community Affairs, drove past the park on several occasions and saw kids clamor for a spot while parents and adult supervisors sat idly by, ignoring the signage indicating the swings were for handicapped persons only, one person at a time.
"Kids are going to be kids and play," Brock said. "We need to be aware as parents not to abuse the regulations."
The parks department sent off an order to the manufacturer for parts, which may take up to a month to arrive.
"If (park inspectors) think the equipment is unsafe, we have to take it down," Brock said.
Stefani Carroll, co-chair for the League's Special Day for Special Kids event, said she was disappointed at how community residents treated public equipment. Numerous financial contributors invested time and money to make sure all children had a place to play.
"Businesses and people gave proceeds," Carroll said. "Many didn't ask for details, they just wrote out a check."
Carroll said she fears equipment abuse could injure kids because the special swings are heavier and could easily knock someone down.
Brock and Carroll urge parents and adults to abide by regulations and keep specialized playground equipment available for those in need.
The League is working to add handicapped-accessible equipment to Barber Park, and Carroll said she hopes Valdostans will show respect and make parks nicer.
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