New Playground Equipment Explored

BERLIN – As public works crews perform annual maintenance in town parks, officials are beginning to plan for new playground equipment.

Members of the Berlin Parks Commission reviewed the town’s annual playground inspection reports this month. While many of the issues noted were minor and have already been addressed by maintenance staff, those issues are expected to increase with the age of the equipment.

“We’re going to need to start thinking about how long we want to maintain this equipment and where we want to be in the next couple years,” said Jimmy Charles, the town’s director of public works.

A report from Playground Guardian revealed inventoried playground equipment at Henry Park and Stephen Decatur Park. The report identifies issues that need to be addressed, including rust that needs to be removed and paint that needs to be restored. The report also identifies equipment that is not located far enough away from other equipment and uneven surfacing in play areas.

Acting Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said the issues cited in Berlin’s parks were primarily the same ones noted every year. Charles agreed.

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“I didn’t really come across anything that stood out,” he said.

Bohlen noted that while the report often mentioned insufficient distance between certain pieces of equipment, the equipment had met the standards in place at the time it was installed. She said it was no easy task to move the equipment and that the spacing wasn’t deemed a priority issue in the report.

When asked how the town could improve functionality of the equipment, Charles said it was showing its age and that officials should begin thinking about replacing it. Bohlen agreed.

“That’s something we should really start talking about so we’re prepared going into the fiscal year 2024 budget,” she said.

She added that many of the grants the town had used in the past to buy equipment were no longer available.

“All we can do is look into it,” she said.

Bohlen said that the local nonprofit We Heart Berlin had recently advised the town it had a new ADA accessible swing volunteers wanted to donate so that the town could replace the existing swing at Stephen Decatur Park, which is broken. Another project she reminded committee members was underway was the installation of permanent restrooms at Decatur Park. She said town staff were still in the process of developing a request for proposals for that project.

Committee member Patricia Dufendach said that if new playground equipment was installed, town staff should review each park site as a whole in case other issues could be addressed at the same time.

“At Stephen Decatur Park there are a lot of wet spots…,” she said. “As we’re going through I’d like to revisit those items at the same time.”

Bohlen agreed but pointed out that whatever improvements were made would all depend on the funding available.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.