PORT ANGELES — The Dream Playground — where a 3-year-old boy was recently pricked by a dirty needle — needs a major overhaul, according to city Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat.
For this reason it is unlikely the 16-year-old park will be retrofitted with rubber mats, despite an online petition with more than 700 signatures to replace the wood chips that can hide objects such a syringes, Delikat said.
The child was poked by a discarded syringe Saturday close to the nearby parking lot, police said.
Delikat said it’s a great idea to add rubber mats, but it would cost about $100,000 to get the job done.
“To do that, then turn around a year and a half to two years later and replace that playground, it would be difficult to spend that money that way,” he said.
Instead, that is something that is likely to happen when the park on Race Street is redesigned in a couple years, he said.
He said rubber matting has been installed at each of the playgrounds built since the Dream Playground because the mats are safer and easier to maintain.
Delikat said city officials started talking with the Dream Playground Foundation last winter about what the new park would look like and that he hopes to start a discussion with the public this fall.
He estimated the cost to replace the park would be about $400,000 and said it’s possible this incident could be a catalyst to get the project started early.
There have already been talks about starting a capital campaign to have the park replaced, he said. When the Dream Playground was installed in 2002, more than $185,000 was raised by the community to help pay construction costs.
Foundation President Steve Methner said the foundation has been raising funds since the park was built in 2002 and currently has about $120,000 in its endowment.
Methner said the playground has lasted about as long as it was expected to. Some parts could last five years or more, while parts are deteriorating, he said.
“There are parts of it that really need overhauled, so we’ve been looking at whether it needs fully replaced or overhauled,” he said.
“There are some parts that are in pretty decent shape while other parts are subject to a lot of ground moisture.”
He said the firm that designed the park has been “amazed” at how well maintained the park has been.
Methner said the timeline for the upcoming project largely depends on funding. Methner said the ground cover will be one of the top issues when they go to do the overhaul.
“It’s really good to know how much concern there is,” he said. “We’re grateful that people have been so vocal about their concerns about the ground cover because it gives us a strong idea of where to go.”
Delikat said that though the playground appears from the outside to be in good condition, its supports are deteriorating.
He said sections of fencing and posts have rotted out. The wooden parts of the structure that are buried in the ground stay damp much of the year, he said, which doesn’t help the problem.
“Visually, from the exterior, the reason it looks so good is because the the [Dream Park Foundation] has been amazing,” he said. “They do up to two work parties a year.”
Delikat said the city invested $40,000 over the winter to install new cameras at Erickson Park because the old cameras weren’t on the current system.
He said that the cameras are already up and should be fully installed some time this month.
“It’s unfortunate this is what we have to deal with,” Delikat said. “The reality is that we got to continue to make people aware of it and continue to try to come up with improvements.”
Needles being found in parks is a topic that has been on Delikat’s mind for the last several years, he said. About four years ago the parks department started talking with the Port Angeles Police Department about the epidemic and began sending crews to look for needles each morning.
“We go through and hit just about every park every day,” Delikat said. “We know where some of the problem spots are.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.