A committee of the New London City Council expressed their support for moving a playscape into Riverside Park and concerns with delays in the process, but recommended tabling action on the item until questions over location and costs can be addressed.
The Education, Parks and Recreation Committee voted unanimously to hold off on action on relocating a playscape from Veterans Field to the park. Committee member Donald Macrino said that in the interim, landscape architects putting together a master plan for improvements at the park can recommend where the playscape should go. Macrino said Public Works Director Tim Hanser can also look into funding sources for the project and what work might need to be done to prepare a site for the playscape.
“I don’t know why it’s so difficult,” said Macrino. “They must have this thing on the drawing board. It must be almost done, it’s due in June. This isn’t Central Park, it’s Riverside.”
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
The proposal to move the playscape from outside the modular classrooms on Cedar Grove Ave., which are no longer in use, has met with both support and opposition. Supporters say Riverside Park is overdue for play equipment since aging playscapes were removed from the site, while opponents say relocating the park before the completion of the master plan would be premature and may not be the best use of funds for park improvement.
The Parks and Recreation Commission recently recommended the relocation of the playscape to the park entrance on Adelaide Street. Resident Dennis Downing said he supported this idea, but thought the playscape would be better suited for the park interior after hearing the argument that it would allow families to enjoy the park while parents are able to keep an eye on their children.
Hanser said he received an estimate in January that it would cost about $56,000 to relocate the playscape to a level area in the park. The estimate includes a poured in place rubber safety surface, a feature which has led some residents to question whether other materials could be used for a lower price. Resident Cathi Strother cautioned that some materials could lead to problems with feral cats in the park.
“You have to keep in mind that these cats will use certain areas for their litterbox,” she said.
Ronna Stuller, of the Riverside Park Conservancy, said the conservancy has voiced support for a playscape in the park but does not think now is the right time to do so. She said she considered the issue an important one, but not an urgent one since the removal of the modular classrooms is not yet underway.
“I think it’s important to make an informed decision on this rather than an emotional one,” she said.
Stuller said University of Connecticut architects are currently preparing a master plan for the park to be presented in June. A preliminary presentation of recommendations included converting some park roads to pedestrian walkways and eliminating other roads to increase green space.
Councilor Anthony Nolan, chair of the committee, and Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop each expressed support for putting a playscape in the park interior, with Hyslop suggesting June as a target date for setting up the equipment.
“My worry is that that park has gone so long without a playscape that we would have to wait a year, or more than a year, to get a playscape for the children in that area,” said Nolan.
Macrino said the landscape architects should be able to make a recommendation on the playscape before the release of the final plan, suggesting an April 9 hearing on park plans as a deadline. Council President Michael Passero, a non-voting councilor who attended the committee, suggested that Hanser should pursue Local Capital Improvement Program funds for the project.
“I think the problem is going to be finding the funding to do this in the first place,” said Passero.