A much anticipated engineer’s report on the condition of the playground at Joe Rowell Park concluded the 15-year old structure is in “poor to fair” condition.
But the Dolores Town Board was not ready to give up on the popular structure that many in the community have rallied to save. It closed Sept. 11 because of safety concerns.
In response to pleas from parents that it be reopened as soon as possible, the board instructed staff to investigate whether repairs can be made affordably. If they can, request for proposals to do the work may be issued out to local contractors.
The playgrounds original builders, Leathers and Associates, conducted the assessment on its condition Nov. 8. Their estimate to repair the playground, including materials and their fees, was $160,000 to $190,000.
But board member James Biard felt getting the worst problems fixed and the playground safely reopened could be done for “a lot less” by local, qualified contractors. Some local builders have already offered donated time and materials.
“I think it is important to get it reopened by spring,” Biard said. “The community has a lot of expertise to do repairs cost effectively.”
The idea had board support, but first Leathers would be asked to come up with an estimate on the key repairs needed to reopen the facility.
“It could be a short-term remedy,” said board member Tracy Murphy. “But we need more information to determine if it is something we can afford.”
Board members also said they were still interested in applying for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to replace the playground equipment with materials that last longer than wood. The next grant deadline is Nov. 2018.
“In one to two years, we may get a grant to replace it, but in the interim we should figure out if we can make the structure safe for reopening while we raise funds,” said board member Val Truelsen.
Mayor Santiago Lopez cautioned board members to be fiscally responsible.
“We don’t want to spend a lot of taxpayer money repairing something that won’t last a long time when we can put it toward one that will,” he said.
Board member Izzy Boyce said repairs need to comply with the town’s insurers, who have expressed concerns about the playground’s deterioration and outdated materials. The insurance company has required certain repairs over the years, but never dropped the policy.
Town Manager Lana Hancock said that $33,000 has been reserved in the budget for potential use as matching funds if a GOCO grant was awarded for a new playground.
The fate of the playground has packed recent town hall meetings, and Monday it was again standing room only.
Parents continued to urge the board to keep the playground a priority because it is depended on by many families. Gina Kotarski, who spearheaded the playground as a memorial for her late husband, urged cooperation among the community and board.
“It is an attraction for our town and can be again. Lets keep the unity together and not let this situation break us apart,” she said.
A Friends of the Playground group is organizing fundraising and volunteers for playground needs, she said. They have raised $3,000. To donate, go to the Friends of the Playground Go Fund Me page.
“We’re the next generation, and were not here when the playground was first built,” added one young parent. “But we want to be involved in its future.”
The town also directed grant writer Chris Burkett to review the Leathers and Associates assessment and give the board a synopsis. Burkett has expertise in playground management and GOCO grants as a longtime former director of parks and recreation for the city of Cortez.
The board approved the first reading of an ordinance establishing a parks and playground advisory committee. It would have five members, of which four have been appointed – Nikki Gillespie, Mike Riley, Kalin Grigg and town board member Tracy Murphy. A fifth will be named soon.