Beverly - Kids disheartened by a cracked slide or broken swing at their neighborhood playground can look forward to revamped play areas this summer. The City Council has voted to allow the Recreation Department to use $175,000 from its enterprise fund to repair many of the city's tired playgrounds.
The city maintains 22 parks, and five or six of them have been either repaired or completely redone recently, including Oak Heights in Centerville, which was completed in the fall, said Bruce Doig, the city's recreation director. All the others need work.
"I did a full inventory of what's needed for repairs," he said, visiting each of the parks during the summer. Then he assigned a grade to the repairs to determine which should be done first. "Some priorities needed to be addressed right away."
Part of the play structure at Balch playground has already been removed; some of Obear Park's equipment has also been taken out.
"There were a number of slides that had cracks in them," he said. These can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 based on how complex they are or if they have a double curve.
Though the repair money is being pulled from enterprise funds, Doig said, it shouldn't affect the department's financial stability in the future.
"We pride ourselves on being frugal and not overspending," he said, calling the playground repairs a "high priority."
In recent years, the recreation department has gotten by with less money for playground maintenance and repair. In the early 2000s, Doig said the budget for this work was cut to $10,000 or $15,000, down from more than $100,000. Neighborhood groups helped fill the gap during this time by raising private money for renovations and repairs. About seven or eight years ago, then-Mayor Bill Scanlon reinstated a "park of the year" fund, which provided some additional money.
In the last four years, the city's Community Preservation Committee also has provided funding for the parks.The idea is to make all of the necessary repairs and have money committed in the future to these needs, Doig said.
Mayor Mike Cahill said some of the work can be done during the winter; he hopes there's a "strong push" toward completion in the spring. "The goal is to get as much of it done as we can before school gets out," he said.
Work on Pete's Park in Centerville is also supposed to begin this spring. The park was renamed for Pete Frates, a Beverly native who has raised funds to combat ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It will cost about $400,000 to complete the park, which will be completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act when it's finished. The city is waiting on a grant, but the CPC has offered up $225,000 to fill that financial need and get the work going while the city waits. Fundraising of more than $100,000 plus money from the Lynch Park Trustees and recreation department will help close the gap. Doig said the city is eyeing a June completion.
When all repairs are complete, Doig hopes his department will need only $15,000 to $25,000 a year to do small repairs and tend to the playgrounds as they need improvements.
By Arianna MacNeill firstname.lastname@example.org