As printed in the Record Journal Thursday, December 23, 2010
By Robert Cyr
WALLINGFORD — Dozens of residents looking to possibly build a playscape at Kendrick Park similar to one across town have shown interest on a popular website’s page dedicated to the topic, started by a resident who wanted to gauge local support for a project. Local volunteer Jason Zandri — a name often tied to the town’s self-supported July 4 fireworks show — started the page on Facebook two months ago to see if there was interest in having a new children’s play set at the park. So far, the site has drawn 37 members.
“There’s really nothing in that park but a few old swing sets and a slide,” Zandri said. “The town isn’t going to dedicate any money to that — let’s be blunt about it. They’ve cut back on services across the town. It would take members of the community to bring that forward.”
But so far the interest, while real, has not gathered enough steam to form a group to go before town leaders, Zandri said. “I know the ropes to help somebody, but I can’t lead it,” Zandri said. “With a couple of years’ worth of work and fundraisers, you could definitely put enough money together.”
A small, quality playground could cost as little as $30,000, he said, although the town’s Doolittle Park playscape cost about $120,000.
The first step toward getting a new playground would be a phone call to the Parks and Recreation Department, said Director John Gawlak. Once a group has decided it wants to act, he said, his department could help it take the best routes to get there.
“If they would fully fund it, I’m sure the town would say ‘Bravo!’ ” Gawlak said.
In the event that a group raises enough money, a donation could be made to the town for that purpose — since the park is town-owned property and any labor that takes place there falls under the town’s liability, he said. When the Doolittle Park playscape was constructed in October 2005, in the space of nine hours, volunteers pitched in and saved the town $20,000 in labor costs, Gawlak said. In order to do any kind of work on town land, each volunteer needs temporary insurance.
“I don’t know why people don’t just call us on this kind of thing,” he said.
At least one website member, Whittlesey Avenue resident Peter Johns, wrote a comment supporting a potential project to put a new playscape at the park.
“I grew up near Kendrick and spent tons of time there as a kid,” Johns wrote. “I always wondered why it didn’t have the cool features of a lot of the other local parks. I’m happy to join the group and support this effort.”
However, many town projects have had to be put on hold recently, with the weak economy and town resources stretched thin, said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. A proposed skate park on town land near the Quinnipiac River got as far as detailed drawings and plans but had to be postponed, with more than $100,000 needed to go further, he said.
“Right now, money’s in short supply,” the mayor said. “We’re going to head into a very difficult next year. We’d have to know a lot more about it.”