SOUTH CHATHAM — A tiny neighborhood playground, partially completed and left in a state of disrepair for more than a month, could soon be fixed up.
In 2015, neighbors successfully lobbied for improvements at the South Chatham Park, located off Judy’s Lane, a 35,246-square-foot parcel that contains a tennis court, a small play area and room for one or two cars. They argued that the playground equipment, a large climbing structure, needed replacement.
To that end, the 2017 annual town meeting unanimously appropriated $38,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to install new playground equipment, play area edging and mulching, installation of a handicap-accessible walkway, and a picnic table, benches and fencing.
Town officials ordered the playground equipment and installed the landscape timbers around the playground, and the installer began erecting the equipment, but soon discovered that parts were missing. That forced the installation to a halt sometime in the early summer.
Since that time, the play area has been a dirt pile, with unfinished playground equipment in the center, wrapped in caution tape.
“That’s disgraceful,” summer resident Jim DeVoe said. A former parks and recreation commissioner who stepped down when he moved to Florida for part of the year, DeVoe had hoped to see the project completed in time for children to use the park this summer. Now, the season is almost over and the work remains undone, he said.
DeVoe said he spoke with Parks and Recreation Director Dan Tobin, who told him about the problem with the playground equipment supplier. DeVoe said he knows that summertime is a busy season for the department, which also manages the town’s beaches.
“I understand that,” he said. But DeVoe said he wonders why other town departments, like the DPW, couldn’t help with some of the work. “There’s got to be resources within our structure who can take care of this,” he said.
Tobin said the problem was with the supplier of the playground equipment.
“It came in bits and pieces,” he said. The final pieces have finally arrived, and Tobin said he is working with the installer to try and arrange for the work to be resumed.
“It could be any day now,” Tobin said. The park has been in an incomplete state for more than a month, he acknowledged.
“We’re trying to keep people off of the equipment because it’s not ready yet,” he said. Once the playground equipment is completely assembled, crews can install the wood chips.
“I’m hoping it’s this week, so we can get this done,” Tobin said. The walkway will also be installed, and some additional landscape cleanup work will be carried out, he added.
DeVoe said he believes there is a need for additional work beyond the scope of last year’s appropriation, including repairs to the a portion of chain link fence and removal of another part of the fence that users of the tennis court say is unsafe. He said the park should also have a better sign.
Tobin said there are no immediate plans for improvements beyond those approved last year.
“It was a relatively simple little project,” he said.