Weekly Feature

2018-06-07 / Front Page

Playground improvements bring new equipment to five parks


Supervisor Patrick Keem and Highway Superintendent Fred Piasecki are shown in front of a new swing at the Orchard Meadows playground. Orchard Meadows was one of five town playgrounds to receive new play equipment this spring. Supervisor Patrick Keem and Highway Superintendent Fred Piasecki are shown in front of a new swing at the Orchard Meadows playground. Orchard Meadows was one of five town playgrounds to receive new play equipment this spring. In desperate need of upgrades for many years, five town playgrounds finally began to receive new equipment this spring, allowing for better play areas for the entire community.

The work done at Burmon, Honeycrest, Orchard Meadows, Pawtucket and Yates Park playgrounds within the $250,000 capital project brought the playgrounds up to current federal safety regulations, while also adding new equipment and a theme for each playground.

Everything was installed in a collaborative effort between Parkitects, the contractor for the upgrades, and the Highway Department.

“It looks great,” said Recreation Director Ed Leak. “Since nothing had been done for many years at these parks, bringing in something new and different, there’s such a positive contrast to what exists.”

Leak added that he’s heard that neighbors love the new features and have been using them.

With phase one of the work almost completed except for some minor landscaping tweaks, Leak said he and Supervisor Patrick Keem have begun to host neighborhood meetings to talk about the new additions at each playground.

One of the recent meetings was at the Pawtucket Park playground.

At the May 16 Town Board meeting, several residents came to speak to the board about a swing set that was removed from the playground. Leak said that topic came up at the neighborhood meeting, which was attended by around 30 residents.

Leak said three studies had been done since 2016 and one of the tiers determined the equipment that had to be acted on immediately because it would be unsafe based on federal safety standards for playgrounds.

“At Pawtucket in particular, the swing set was clearly identified in tier one as action has to be taken because there were cement pylons that were exposed, the drop area did not meet the national standards and it was not [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible, which is also a requirement.”

At the Town Board meeting, Keem and Highway Superintendent Fred Piasecki said they did not know the swing set was being removed until calls started coming in to their offices. Leak said the plan was always to remove the swing set in phase one.

Going forward, Leak said, there could be some fundraising efforts coordinated by the town in the Pawtucket Park neighborhood to install a new swing and path sooner than phase two. Phase two would roughly begin next summer.

The quote from Parkitects on the swing set and path was $32,000, according to Leak. The swing would be around $4,000, but the ADA path would be 1,000 square feet of paving.

The partnership between the town and Parkitects could possibly include a second phase of work on the playgrounds, if the town were to grant funding through a capital project next year.

“If the Town Board chooses to fund phase two, which we hope would be equal to or more than the $250,000, we will then continue to work with the Playground Champions and the contractor, and continue to upgrade and develop the themes that we established at those parks,” said Leak about more potential new equipment coming to the playgrounds. Playground Champions consists of community members from each of the playgrounds.

Keem is in the process of seeing if the funding can be allocated. The three-member Town Board has supported the upgrades at the parks.

Outside of questions about the swing set, Leak said those who attended the neighborhood meeting were pleased with the new equipment installed and the idea that phase two would be funded by the town to continue the work.

“They’ve been the most organized and vocal of any of them,” said Leak about the Pawtucket residents. “That’s a positive. They’re a very active neighborhood.”

At each neighborhood meeting, Leak is asking residents to create a wish list of what they’d like to see added to the playground. This would work into a master plan for the parks that the Recreation Department is working on.

One of the other parts of phase one was the creation of a Passports to Parks program. Passports to Parks was designed by Jim Wilson, a retired Orchard Park School District art teacher and president of the Orchard Park Visual Arts Boosters. The program would see children go to all five playgrounds and mark their passport on a rubbing post to show they visited the park.

“Our intent there is for the community to realize where [they are] and what the other neighborhood parks have to offer,” Leak said.

Passport to Parks would allow residents to see the different themes, and the equipment geared to those themes, at each playground. The themes for the playgrounds are: “Climbing Chaos” at Burmon; “Intergalactic Travels” at Honeycrest; “We all Play” at Orchard Meadows; “Wooded Wonders” at Pawtucket; and “Splish Splash” at Yates.

The booklet, which is available in the Recreation Department office and the Municipal Center, offers a place for children to write what their favorite part of the park was, what they found, and when they plan to return.

email: cgraham@beenews.com

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