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Parks Commission prioritizes recreational needs in Berlin

Playground equipment is getting old and rusted at Henry Park in Berlin. The town has a proposal from Gametime to replace the equipment.

By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Sept.14, 2023) The Berlin Parks Commission reviewed its Open Space project priority list for next year on Tuesday and discussed the playgrounds at Dr. William Henry and Stephen Decatur parks.

Kate Daub, the administrative assistant for the town of Berlin, told the commission that the purchase of defibrillators for the parks were not eligible for playground funding because they do not have the required 20-year lifespan. She said money to pay for the units could come from other sources.

She also reported that funding for life saving devices by the ponds and other water features in Decatur and Heron parks needs to be incorporated into a larger project such as the observation platform over the lagoons at Heron Park.

The final item on the commission’s priority list was the conversion of tennis courts to pickleball courts at Stephen Decatur Park. With the increasing popularity of pickleball, the commission is considering pursuing grants to pay for the conversion of two tennis courts into six pickleball courts.

The commission, however, will conduct a community survey before deciding whether to proceed with the change.

Daub said changes will be made to the priority list during the January meeting.

She said she hopes to revisit the list and present it to the mayor and council for approval to ensure that the town meets the state Program Open Space grant application deadline in March.

In August, Town Administrator Mary Bohlen submitted a proposal to the Department of Natural Resources for funding new playground equipment at Henry Park to replace its current structures.

The project is expected to cost $240,000, of which the town will commit to $24,000 in matching funds. The town is seeking $216,000 from the state’s Community Parks and Playgrounds Program.

Berlin has received a bid from Gametime for $236,000 for new ADA compliant equipment. Daub said she expects to be able to award the contract after the first of the year and Gametime estimates that the equipment will be in place within 12 months of the award date.

Not all the equipment will be replaced. The purple/green play unit for ages two to five at the front of the playground, closest to Flower Street, as well as the blue two-bay swing, will remain. The plan is to replace all other remaining equipment, according to Public Works Superintendent Cody Chesser.

The “tot” swing at Henry Park will be removed and the blue two-bay swing will be extended to include two new tot swings. There will only be one swing frame with three bays and the same number of swings that are currently in place.

He said that in the meantime, his team is concentrating on keeping the playground safe.

“A lot of the safety issues have been addressed,” he said.

Chesser also reported that new swings and chains are coming in for Stephen Decatur Park.

“The existing swings are at the end of their life cycle and are beginning to show signs of wear. This is typically when they are replaced. The swing frames themselves will stay and be repainted,” Chesser said.

He said two yellow spinners have recently been taken out of service and will be replaced as well.

“The quotes received for the Stephen Decatur Park restrooms far exceeded what had been budgeted. At this time, the town currently has a grant application pending and the hope is to secure the necessary funding to move forward with this project,” Daub said.