New playscape design revealed for town dock playground

STONINGTON — Next spring, two new playscapes will replace the single one that was removed from the Town Dock playground in September because its footings had deteriorated.

The new designs, one for ages 2-5 and the other for ages 5-12,  were presented at the Stonington Free Library Wednesday afternoon by Leanne Theodore, the town's director of human services, and Rich Ward, recreation administrator. 

The structures are expected to cost $65,000 installed, to be paid by the Stonington Village Improvement Association, Stonington Borough and revenues from the Human Services Department, Theodore said.

“This will not be coming from taxpayer dollars,” said Theodore. “Once we determine the cost share then we’ll be better able to determine how much we’ll be coming up with, but we won’t be tapping into the Capital Improvement Program, the general fund or anything. This will be totally coming from program revenues.”

Theodore said the department has used program fees to pay for recreational equipment and upgrades, such as installing security cameras and resurfacing tennis courts. “Pretty much the program fees that are charged go directly back into the community,” she said.

Repairing the previous playscape, which was installed in 2003, was deemed impractical and expensive because it would have entailed putting the aging superstructure on top of new footings.

Three vendors submitted bids, and Kompan Inc., with offices in Bristol, Conn., won the job, with equipment constructed of black locust wood, chosen for its durability and appearance. “The design is tailored to match the Town Dock,” Theodore said.

The new footings will also be protected from deterioration, she said. “We certainly don’t want to set ourselves up for the same problem that just happened and now that we’re aware of it, we can take precautionary measures,” Theodore said.

Plastic and stainless steel playscapes were also considered, but their appearance would not have fit into the aesthetic of the Town Dock, Theodore said.

Ward said he was pleased that the new playscapes provided equipment for an expanded age demographic. He said he also liked the design because it reflected the construction of the piers.

“I think it’s a nice match to the surrounding area as far as matching the piers and the woodwork, so I’m excited about the opportunities for the kids ahead, hopefully very soon,” he said.

Jen Norcross, a member of the Recreation Commission, said she was pleased that the project included a playscape for younger children in the Borough. “It’s nice to have opportunities for kids in every part of town and this keeps that going,” she said. “If parents want to take their kids to a playground, they can stay close to home.”

The timing of the project coincided with the town’s seasonal slowdown, said Theodore.

“It presented a nice opportunity for us and it couldn’t have happened at a better time because it was at the end of our summer season,” she said. “It gave us time to do our due diligence, to determine what the community needs were and the resounding message was that parents wanted a place for younger children to play.”

As soon as the ground thaws in the new year, the playscapes will be installed, Theodore said. “We’re hoping to have this installed at the very beginning of the spring season. As soon as the weather breaks and we have the ability to do so, we want to get this up and running.”