by James K. Willcox
Out of the rubble of the former site, a great new play area will rise
With winter—hopefully—now in our rear-view mirrors and more of us venturing out and around town, one of the popular topics of conversation is, “What the heck’s going on with the children’s playground in Memorial Park?” since it currently looks more like a set from a disaster movie than a children’s play area.
The good news is that progress on the new playground is continuing, and we’ve been working—especially members of the Nyack Park Conservancy, which is funding the project—through the winter to keep the process moving. The bad news is that like many construction projects, we’re a bit behind our original schedule.
There are a few good reasons why the playground project is running behind our plan. One is the weather; obviously, we all had a tough winter, and the amount of snow and frigid temperatures meant that we couldn’t get started with some of the site inspections as early as we had hoped.
But another reason is because of the way the project is being handled. Since the playground is on Village of Nyack property, the village—rather than the Nyack Park Conservancy, which has overseen the playground design—is technically building the new playground. As such, the process has to conform to several practices and processes common in all municipal projects.
Some background: When we started on the project more than a year ago, we saw it consisting of two main elements. One was the renovation of the current playground—basically replacing the fill and older pieces of equipment that were removed, and creating a new toddler play space. The other was building an entirely new slide feature on the hill behind the existing playground. Therefore, it was thought that these could be considered separate projects. Because of the scope of the project, it was necessary for the Nyack Park Conservancy to donate the money to the village, as Nyack would need to build the playground since Memorial Park is on property owned by the village.
The result, however, is that the project is now subject to a bidding process, in which Nyack draws up and issues a request for proposals (RFP) for the project. As a result, additional surveys, topographic maps of the areas, and construction drawings for all the installations were required. The good news is that all of this work is now nearly done, and we expect the RFP to be completed within the next week or so. Another big benefit: Even the existing playground is being dramatically improved. Once the RFP is issued, interested companies have 30 days to submit bids, which will then be reviewed by the village before a contract is awarded. Once the contract is signed, the actual work on the playground can begin.
What this means is that while our intention was that the playground would reopen late this spring—and there is still some hope it could happen—it’s now more likely that the playground will open later in the summer.
While the delay is disappointing, when the playground does reopen Nyack will have a beautiful, completely renovated children’s play area that will be enjoyed by the whole community. In addition to the new hill slide, which we imagine will be an incredibly popular attraction, the playground will feature a new toddler’s area, natural wood play houses, plus a large net climber. New natural engineered wood material will replace the rubber mulch fill, and solid-surface pathways along with some play items at a lower level will make the playground more accessible by those in wheelchairs. Some elements that are still in good shape will remain, such as the existing larger climbing structure, and the swing set, which will be updated with new swings, including a new high-back adaptive swing seat for those with special needs.
The playground is actually just one of a number of new projects happening in Memorial Park this summer. A new children’s garden will be built just outside the playground. The fishing pier will be expanded to include seating and benches and guard rails. Various viewing amenities, including viewfinders, will let visitors watch the ongoing Tappan Zee Bridge construction from Memorial Park.
Since the the playground will be under construction this spring and perhaps even early summer, the Nyack Parks Commission is speaking with the village’s recreation director about hosting special play events and activities in the park for kids to reduce the impact of the playground being out of commission.
So that’s where things currently stand with the playground. As we get further into the construction, we’ll post another update to keep everyone abreast of the progress, and of course news about when the playground will reopen. Like you, we’re looking forward to a day this summer when the playground does reopen, and once again all the families throughout the Nyack community will be able to come down to the park and enjoy it.
Jim Willcox is chairman of the Nyack Parks Commission.
Photo Credit: Nyack Parks Conservancy