For a 9-year-old, Jeffrey Voeltner has lofty aspirations. He likes to build freestyle forts out of scrap lumber and dreams of being an architect.
But the City of Fullerton is cramping his style.
For three years, the youngster has participated in a summer program called Adventure Playground in which children build clubhouses and play in muddy water slides.
Now, city officials have decided to end the program.
After hearing a tearful plea by Jeffrey, the city's Community Services Commission voted last week not to allocate $14,000 for Adventure Playground this summer at Beechwood Elementary School on Rolling Hills Drive.
Jan Hobson, a community services department official, said the commission felt that the summer program it sponsored since 1980 was no longer feasible for the city. About 150 youngsters participated last year.
"The commission felt the program was not cost-effective, and it was too much of a liability risk for the city," she said Thursday.
When his mother told him that Adventure Playground was not on the city's summer schedule of activities for youngsters, young Voeltner felt that he had to make his feelings known.
"I told him he could write a letter to the commission," his mother, Lucy Voeltner, said. "But I didn't think he would do it."
After writing the letter, Jeffrey asked his father to take him to a Community Services Commission meeting last week. The young boy, normally shy and soft-spoken, asked to be heard before the commission voted.
In a soft, tearful voice, he pleaded that the program not be discontinued.
"I like Adventure Playground very much. It's good to have kids play and learn how to build," he told the five-member panel.
Jeffrey lost by a 3-2 vote.
"I feel very sad because it was one of the best things going on. It was very fun. And building forts is the No. 1 thing for me," the boy said.
Has Own Backyard Clubhouse
Jeffrey expects to participate in a city-sponsored arts-and-crafts program near his home this summer and will play in a clubhouse that he and his father have built in the backyard. But he still misses Adventure Playground.
"They said they might sort of have it again next year. I really hope so," said the Raymond Elementary School fourth-grader.
Jeffrey's mother said she admired him for standing up and fighting to keep Adventure Playground alive.
"I'm very proud of him," she said. "I think he showed a lot of maturity for a 9-year-old. I don't think many kids would stand up for something they felt very strongly about. But he did."