Every week we set out to answer a question submitted by one of our readers as part of our " column.
Parents taking advantage of a mid-March heat wave may have noticed some changes to local parks and playgrounds this week, and while children are left pondering the disappearance of their favorite slides, city officials are hoping to create a safer playspace through addition by subtraction.
Battered and broken playground equipment has been or will be removed from several city-run play areas this month while the awaits budget figures for the next fiscal year -- figures that will determine how many of these hotspots can be improved or restored.
Whether it be from age, vandalism or severe weather, many city playgrounds have begun to be fraught with broken slides, rusted equipment and aging swing sets, which can prove dangerous for children and parents frequenting neighborhood play areas.
Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Jennifer Davis said this week that repairs and replacement is all based on how much money the department is allotted in the coming budget, but removing the equipment in question has become a safety priority for her.
“I would rather have no playground structure than an unsafe structure,” she said. “We happen to have some money left this fiscal year so we are taking the dangerous playground structures and removing them.”
One area of particular concern was near Sutton Street, where a tube slide appeared to have been vandalized and left broken in half on the ground. That slide as well as the accompanying playground apparatus were removed and just a set of swings remain for now.
Davis said the same has been done to dangerous areas of Lake Shore Drive Park and Forest Street Park, among others.
“If there is money left over from this we will do our best to install new play items or improve existing ones throughout the city,” she added.
Funding for maintenance, cleaning and lawn care is included in the annual ‘Parks’ budget line, but repairs and new equipment are funded separately through a capital improvements budget line. Davis says the city has established a list of priorities in this area and what type of work is done will depend on how much funding is allotted to the effort by the city finance team.
Last year the city’s parks budget came in at just under $350,000, $209,000 of which was used for lawn and landscaping maintenance.
Davis said that until she knows how much money will be left over from this year and allowed next year, she is unsure how many additions and improvements she will be able to fund. But she is asking residents to step up and share ideas with her as she prepares to lobby at for those needs.
“Which park would you expand if we had the money to do so and what would it consist of,” she asked, posing an open question to Patch readers. “It is budget time, time for me to ask for money for 2013. This way I can see what people want in their playgrounds. We want safe places for people to recreate in.“