Accessible play area third for New London
By Scott Bellile
After months of weather delays, Franklin Park’s new ADA-accessible playground is finally open to the public.
The equipment was ready for play the weekend of Oct. 14-15, New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth said.
The additions include slides, climbing equipment, two swing sets including infant and accessible swings, and new to New London, an accessible glider.
Hoerth said the glider accommodates anyone, including users of wheelchairs and walkers. The person situates himself or herself inside, and then extra individuals hang off of the outside and rock their bodies to help move the glider.
“The point of the equipment was to try and get more inclusiveness and interactive with the kids so those with any type of challenge can be interactive with everyone else and be included,” Hoerth said.
Two old swing sets were removed to make way for the new playground because they contained peeling lead paint, Hoerth said.
A jungle gym, slide and merry-go-round that have been part of the park for decades remain because Hoerth said they are in good condition.
The playground came to be after months of delays. Volunteer community builds were planned in hopes of saving the city on labor costs, Hoerth said.
A volunteer build was originally scheduled for June 16-17 but poor weather postponed it. Volunteer builds rescheduled for June 30 and July 1 and Aug. 18-19 did not pan out for the same reason.
By then Hoerth decided to cancel them because with the school year starting he doubted helpers would show up to the first day of the two-day build, which is always a Friday.
Hoerth instead assigned city parks and streets workers to construct the playground. He does not know how many hours crews spent assembling the playground and what it cost to taxpayers because crews worked on it during scattered moments of free time.
The final cost for the equipment came out to about $56,000, Hoerth said. The pouring of the rubberized surface, which was contracted out, cost a little over $6,000.
The fall weather was nicer to city workers, Hoerth said. They finished in early October.
“The guys did a great job,” Hoerth said. “Our crews definitely take pride in stuff like that and it’s something different. It’s kind of a fun project they can put some pride in and sit back and look when it’s done and see families enjoy it.”
If the weather stays pleasant, Hoerth said crews will pour asphalt paths this fall.
Paths would also be poured at the rubberized ADA-accessible playgrounds at Pfeifer and Hatten parks. Pfeifer’s opened in 2016 while Hatten’s opened in 2015.
A long-term plan calls for eventually adding ADA-accessible playgrounds to Memorial, Abraham and Krostue parks. These projects have not been approved.
At Franklin Park Thursday, Oct. 19, children and parents alike said they liked the new playground.
“I’m glad they could update this park. I think it was definitely time,” said Ryan Bush of New London, who came with his 6-year-old daughter, Brinley Bush.
Ryan said Brinley enjoys the new playgrounds at Hatten and Pfeifer parks. She eagerly awaited the opening of Franklin Park’s.
“My daughter loves the city parks and every time they update them I’m happy to see the funds collected and used in a way that keeps the community together,” he said.
New London mother Nicole Olson, who visited with 3-year-old daughter, Ali Olson, and 5-year-old son, Donald Olson, said she likes that the playground offers an outlet for “the little ones” where parents can climb on too and feel confident they will not break it.
Ruth Selle of New London, who enjoyed the equipment with her 4-year-old son, Kamryn Selle, offered a plea to the city.
“Don’t ever tear it down,” she said. “I’m serious.”