At its meeting last week, the park board voted to recommend a plan for a new playground at the Main City Park in Washington to the city council.

Darren Dunkle, outgoing park director, said the department has been trying to work construction of a new playground into the budget for the past three years.

The two current playgrounds at the park are reaching the end of their life cycle.

Dunkle said decking needs to be replaced at one of the playgrounds, and the other has “crumbling” surfaces in some areas.

The repairs alone will cost more than $78,000, but Dunkle said that within the next five to eight years both of the playgrounds will have to be replaced.

“So instead of throwing money at it just to make those repairs, it would make more sense to look at putting in a new playground,” he argued.

Dunkle said the department also has received complaints from summer camp counselors and citizens about the playgrounds.

“The major complaint that we hear from residents (is) the current playgrounds are too far away from the restrooms,” he said, especially if someone has more than one child they’re watching.

Dunkle said another problem deals with standards, which states if a playground is within 200 feet of a roadway there is supposed to be a barrier or fencing separating the playground from the roadway. Right now there isn’t a barrier.

Park staff has been looking into how to make the playgrounds better. They’ve been in contact with a playground company, as well as a landscaping architect.

“What we’re looking to do is move (the playground) up and tuck it in between the existing restrooms and concessions stand, and the pavilion,” Dunkle said. For pavilion and ballfield users who have young kids, Dunkle thinks the move would make it easier to keep an eye on them and it will provide some lighting.

When asked about foul balls hitting someone at the new location, he said it could happen, but not that often.

“We looked at the space (and) measured it out,” Dunkle said. “All this will fit within that footprint and won’t require us to have a fence so that’s an expense that will go away as well.”

New Playground Costs

The parks department has budgeted $250,000 from the last half-cent capital improvement tax for the $275,000 project.

“Due to the netting and the different types of footings it’s kind of a difficult playground to construct,” Dunkle said. “So from a liability standpoint and a warranty standpoint it’s better to have a professional installer. So that’s where the price comes from.”

He encouraged the board to reach out to civic organizations for help with the leftover $25,000.

“We had different surface organizations that helped out with the original playgrounds,” he said. “We would like to reach out to those civic organizations to see if they’d like to participate in this playground.”

The Rotary and the Kiwanis were the two organizations that participated in the past.

As for as how soon the department should place the order, Dunkle said within the next month would be best so the price would be locked in. He said that with steel prices and tariffs, the same price offered now won’t be guaranteed after the first of the year.

Dunkle said the new playground will have three different “pods.”

“The first pod is, for lack of a better term, like an egg-shaped merry-go-round,” he said. “You climb on the outside of it, get inside of it (and) it spins.”

The second pod has slides, lots of climbing spots and netting. The third is a swing set.