‘Very Poor Condition’: Playground Upgrades Sought for Public Parks


Saying heavily used playground equipment at Dixon, Kiwanis and Mead Parks is old and in need of replacement, recreation officials are seeking $115,000 in taxpayer funds for next fiscal year.

Some of the equipment is now 17 years old and the federal Consumer Protection Safety Commission has new standards regarding heights, surfaces, handicapped access and space between pieces, Recreation Director Steve Benko said Friday while presenting his department’s operating and capital budget requests for next fiscal year to the Board of Selectmen.

“Stuff is worn out, things are beyond maintenance, you have metal pipes sticking out, paint is chipping off and they’re rusting—I think it’s time to start looking at replacing some of this equipment,” Benko said at the meeting, held in the Training Room at the New Canaan Police Department. “It gets a lot of use.”

The Rec Department in the spring applied for $103,750 in STEAP grant funds from the state—it didn’t come through. The breakdown of funds sought for next fiscal year is as follows:

  • Ed Dixon Park: $12,500
  • Kiwanis Park: $52,500
  • Mead Park: $50,000

Mead “probably gets the most use,” Benko said.

“Mead park is packed every single day,” he said.

Yet it’s equipment (1998) is newer than that at Kiwanis (1992), Benko said.

The town has the playground equipment at Mead and Kiwanis inspected annually and the most recent consultant’s report said it was in “very poor condition,” Benko said.

Over five years, the Recreation Department estimates that $430,000 will be needed to upgrade to playground equipment at the three public parks—see page 59 in this Capital Budget Requests document, available on the municipal website. The town is limited as to what it can do at Dixon Park, Benko said, because there’s a sewer line right-of-way that runs through it.

Saying that Kiwanis Park’s playground area got help several years ago from a coalition that included the Girl Scouts, YMCA, Kiwanis Club and nursery school there, Selectman Beth Jones asked whether some of the burden for the playground upgrades may be shouldered by generous donors.

Selectman Nick Williams said he was grateful for those donors, and added that the town itself must provide for basic public needs without resorting to private funds.

“If we need another fire truck, we buy the fire truck,” Williams said.

“Why every time do we devolve into a discussion about private money? I want private money, I’m not disparaging that. But I mean, come on. We have an obligation to our town to support this … This is something we need to do, and do every yearr. We need to keep up this. Mead Park and Waveny—these are gems of this town—and we need to make sure we fund them properly, and not have to worry about getting money from here or there.”

Jones said that giving private residents an opportunity to help out with upgrades at a public park, whether it’s physical volunteer work or donations (such as buying bricks), is a great opportunity for community-building that works hand-in-hand with taxpayer funds.

The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Monday to approve the budget—it goes next to the Board of Finance, and then Town Council.

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