The Dolores Town Board voted unanimously Monday to dismantle the structures at the popular Ron Kotarski Jr. Memorial Playground, pending approval from Great Outdoors Colorado.
Based on an assessment of the structures by their original builders, Leathers and Associates, the board decided it would be more cost-effective to install new playground equipment than to spend money on significant repairs.
“More than 80 percent needs repair or replacement, and if we fixed it, we don’t know for sure if it would be approved for coverage by our insurance company,” said Dolores Mayor Santiago Lopez.
The castlelike playground in Joe Rowell Park was built in 2001 by community members, but it fell into disrepair, prompting its closure on Sept. 11 because of safety reasons.
Construction was financed in part by a $100,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. To receive the grant, the town signed a contract with GOCO to maintain the playground equipment for 20 years.
But the town said the playground’s large wooden structures did not hold up well in the local climate and was difficult to maintain. They have asked GOCO for permission to be released from the contract so they could tear it down and begin planning for a new one.
Jake Houston, local government program manager for GOCO, said the request will be reviewed by the Parks Trails and Open Space Committee, and a decision will be made in early 2018.
“They have sent us the documents and photographs, and it is currently under review,” he said.
Since the town is still under contract, tearing it down without GOCO approval could result in the town having to pay back the original $100,000 grant, Houston said.
Tearing it down without the go-ahead from GOCO is not a good idea, said town board member Tracy Murphy, because ”we don’t want to burn that bridge” needed for future grants to build a new playground.
Parent Keely McLain, of the Dolores Playground Group, said the organization is in the process of fundraising toward playground repair so it could be reopened, at least partially.
“It would buy us time to figure out a solution,” she said. “There is interest in the community to donate financially, and we are in the process of setting up a fiscal agent to handle donated funds.”
A separate GoFundMe account set up by Gina Kotarski — whose late husband is the playground’s namesake — has raised nearly $3,000. The account specifically sought donations to help pay for the cost of a playground assessment by Leathers and Associates. Since that cost was covered by the town, Kotarski said donors will be asked if they want the money returned to them or redirected to other playground project efforts.
Town board member Izzy Boyce supported starting over on a new playground.
“The playground is too outdated; spending money on it will just be a Band-Aid,” she said. “I’d like to move forward with a new one that our insurance company will agree with.”
After the playground was closed, community members urged the town board to form a permanent parks committee to help guide the future of the playground. The committee was approved by the board Monday, and four of five members have been named. It will meet for the first time soon.
Parent Leigh Sands asked the board to consider holding off on major decisions regarding the current playground to give the committee time to meet and come up with recommendations.
“The committee could help research different options and opportunities,” she said.
Board member Val Truelsen said the “new committee will be involved in helping to plan the new playground.”
email@example.comThis story has been updated to correct the name of the Dolores Playground Group and to clarify donor funding streams.