All the playground equipment has been removed from South Park, and a similar removal will take place starting next week at Pioneer Park.
This is not the work of the Grinch. The city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands had already been planning to install new, much more attractive equipment at both parks next spring, using money from the Citywide Park District created by the City Council three years ago.
A recent inspection of both playgrounds showed that most of the existing equipment was worn out and some of it downright dangerous, triggering fears of liability.
“We decided we had to remove it now so we didn’t have any problems before the new equipment goes in,” said Jon Thompson, superintendent of parks.
Spring is also the busiest time for the department, as it prepares for the spring and summer months, Thompson said. “We decided to get it done now and prepped for next spring. We have time to do that now, and of course the weather is beautiful.”
Parks crews took out all the old equipment at South Park and finished prepping the ground Friday. They will start in at Pioneer next week, Thompson said, but the work will be a little different.
South Park still had sand for fall protection, but Pioneer has wood chips. The chips will be removed for use in other parks before demolition begins. One of the problems with both parks is that parts were no longer available to make repairs on some of the equipment, so parts and pieces are being salvaged for future repairs at the city’s other 39 playgrounds, Thompson said.
At Pioneer, crews will also be taking out some concrete walkways that ran through the playground to make a bigger space for new play structures. The city has already put out requests for proposals to manufacturers of playground equipment and hopes to be able to select the new equipment in January.
Thompson said both parks will have one big feature with lots of “play value,” plus some other, smaller attractions, including swings. The big items, he said, will be unlike anything now in the city.
“We’re not really sure what that’s going to look like yet, because we are going to be accepting these proposals,” he said.
The department has budgeted $255,000 for South Park improvements, using a $75,000 grant from the state Land and Water Conservation Fund and the rest from the park maintenance district, funded local property taxes.
For Pioneer, the budget is slightly higher, at $300,214. Thompson said that’s because Pioneer “is really a destination playground,” used by people from all over the city. The city is also asking for proposals to build a $500,000 sprayground at South Park. As with the new playgrounds, the city is hoping the sprayground will be ready for use by next summer.
Other projects to be funded by the park district in the coming year include new tennis courts with post-tension concrete bases—four courts at Castle Rock Park in the Heights and three in Pioneer Park, for a total of $500,000.
Other big ticket items include irrigation improvements at Stewart and Amend parks, the first used for soccer and the second for baseball and softball. Both rely on water from irrigation ditches, Thompson said, and the ditches usually aren’t filled until mid-April.
That means it is sometimes difficult to have healthy turf by the time the fields are being heavily used, Thompson said. The plan is to run new water lines into both systems, so that city water can be used if irrigation is necessary before the ditches are filled. Those two projects are expected to cost $550,000.
“We’ve got a lot going on, that’s for sure,” Thompson said.