Inclusive Playground Eyed For Berlin; Equipment Replacement A Grant Funding Priority

Inclusive Playground Eyed For Berlin; Equipment Replacement A Grant Funding Priority
The Stephen Decatur Park is pictured. File photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – Replacing the aging equipment at Stephen Decatur Park with inclusive playground equipment is now a top priority for Berlin.

The Berlin Parks Commission this week agreed to designate inclusive playground equipment as its top priority as it seeks state grant funding. The decision came at the urging of Mayor Zack Tyndall.

“We want to preserve the natural beauty of Stephen Decatur Park but also add something that all ages can play and all abilities can play as well,” he said.

Last year, Tyndall brought up the concept of replacing some of the equipment at Stephen Decatur Park with inclusive playground equipment. He shared concept plans for a roughly $800,000 setup with officials in 2021. As a result, the commission included the inclusive playground on its list of priorities, along with lighting at Henry Park, ping pong tables at Burbage Park and a skate park study.

Tyndall came to the commission this week asking members to make the inclusive playground the top priority on the list and forward that to the town council as a recommendation. He added that the park’s existing equipment was old.

“Some of the equipment is beginning to deteriorate,” he said.

He introduced Sarah Oleksak, a local physical therapist who helped Salisbury with its inclusive playground.

“I’d like to do what I can to support that here,” she said.

Commission members said they liked the idea but said they wanted to make sure the park stayed shady. They also asked about the projects previously listed above the playground as priorities for grant funding.

Acting Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said the permanent bathrooms for Stephen Decatur Park had been funded and were in the planning stages. The grant application for Henry Park lighting was approved and the town expects to hear soon on if any funding will be received.

Tyndall noted that even if the town made an inclusive playground its top priority when seeking Community Parks and Playgrounds funds, it wouldn’t find out until the end of next summer if any funding had been received.

“I think it’s very important for us to continue to put good projects forward,” he said.

He said the town would use some of the funds it budgeted for grant applications to have a grant writer work on the application.

When asked which equipment the new inclusive playground would replace, Bohlen said it was likely all of the existing equipment would be removed.

“Just because of the age and the way it’s laid out,” she said.

Commission members said they supported Tyndall’s proposal.

“It would help our children so much,” commission member Patricia Dufendach said.

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.