CHATHAM – Voters at May's annual town meeting will be asked to spend $295,000 in community preservation funds to upgrade the playground at Chatham Elementary School.
The community preservation committee endorsed the proposal last week after trimming $56,000 from the community playground committee's initial request.
For more than four years a dedicated group of parents, school administrators and town officials have been working to upgrade the playground behind the Depot Road school. The play area was graded and irrigated and drainage corrected. The group sought the CPA funds to upgrade and replacement equipment and to make the entire area accessible.
The most expensive aspect of the project relates to accessibility. The existing wood chips that cover the surface of the play area are to be replaced by poured rubber, which streamlines maintenance by removing the need to constantly replenish the wood chips.
The school's PTO has been holding fundraisers, dinners and looking for grants to fund the facility, said Principal Robin Millen. “It's been very difficult to get private donations,” she said. She added that the playground is on town property that is leased by the Monomoy Regional School District and its use is not limited to the school's 238 students. Monomoy Community Services, located across Depot Street, uses the playground, as does Chatham Bars Inn for its summer programs.
Making the facility accessible will not only allow all kids to use it, Millen said, it will also avoid a lawsuit, which has happened in other towns. She also added that the accessibility features, including the smooth surface created by the poured rubber, will benefit older residents who take their grandchildren to the playground.
CPC member Debbie Aikman said the requested amount was more than any other town had spent on a school playground using community preservation funds. Some $200,000 in CPA funds was approved for a playground at the Eddy School in Brewster, “and that's a really nice playground,” she said.
“This is way over what would normally get CPA funds,” she said.
Chairman Michael Tompsett suggested removing a $50,000 sun shade designed to protect young children using the pre-school playscape from the sun. That could be requested in a subsequent year, along with $6,000 for benches and tables, putting the total below $300,000. “I think that would sail through” town meeting, he said.
Millen noted that the group is submitting a grant for the sun shade from the The American Dermatological Association.
The committee voted to recommend $295,000 for the playground.
“We'll get our families out to support it,” Millen said.
The committee finalized votes on several other applications, including three that involved the removal of invasive species. The committee endorsed $79,000 for signs, trails and invasive removal at the 3.7-acre Marconi Triangle at Route 28 and Ryder's Cove Road, as well as $87,000 for invasive removal on Chatham Conservation Foundation property near the Nickerson Family Association headquarters on Orleans Road. But the committee stuck by its previous vote rejecting $86,000 for removal of invasive plants at the town-owned Seaside Links Golf Course. CPC members said the town should also consider funding the work, which can be seen as routine maintenance. Tompsett added that he thought three proposals involving invasive removal would be difficult for town meeting to accept.
The CPC also approved $28,000 for bikeway crossing lights, $15,000 for restoration of historic gravestones; and $25,000 for a croquet court and irrigation in Chase Park.