The Watertown City Council had a short meeting on September 10 to discuss the playground update at Sugarbush Park. The aging park not only requires a few updates for accessibility reasons, but also safety updates to prevent injuries.
The parks around Watertown have been being updated as part of the 2020 Capital Investment Plan. Sugarbush Park is one of two parks in the city that has pea gravel, according to the agenda document, which isn’t in compliance with accessibility as well as timber edging. The playground itself is also suffering from age, the wood and paint chipping and splintering. Finally, given the park’s location on Madison Street, it’s fairly hidden from public view.
As part of the project, the Parks Commission and City Council have taken the time to listen to public concerns and wants regarding updating and fixing the park, according to the document.
Shane Fineran, city administration, presented to council the plans regarding the park. Because of the park’s location, it’s a little unique, as according to Fineran it looks more as though the park is within someone’s back yard. The project was originally planned for next year, but now the plan is to replace the park for next spring.
To further listen to the public, a few people did come to the council meeting to express their wants and concerns so the council can understand their perspective.
One resident came forward, stating that the park isn’t the easiest to get to, only a few points of access to the park, making visiting Sugarbush difficult for the community. People either need to walk across busy streets, according to the resident, but also the park is surrounded by houses and there’s no area for visitors to park, despite the fact that it’s a “cute park.” As such, some of the concern stems from the need, as it’s not one of the most populated parks in the city.
Adam Pawelk, council member, echoed this concern, asking if there was a better use for the estimated $85,000 needed to replace the park. Council member, Lindsay Guetzkow, brought up the fact that there are open lots next to the park and agreed that the park looks as though it looks as if it’s in someone’s backyard.
“I’ve actually discouraged my kids from playing there, because of safety and its appearance,” she said.
She brought up the idea that woodchips would make Sugarbush look more like a public park.
Guetzkow also proposed engaging with the community around the park to see if they would be interested in either keeping the park or turning the space into something else. The houses could also give their input on what they’d want to see happen with the park, considering it’s their backyard to worry about.
Pawelk proposed that Wildflower also required an update, and the money would be better served at Wildflower versus Sugarbush since it’s a more popular park. Guetzekow argued that if the neighborhood around Sugarbush should have input toward that decision, since they have the right to use the park. But until that input is received, the council is only able to speculate what the community wants.
With all this in mind, the council agreed that more public engagement would be appreciate in regards to this project in order to be better informed about moving forward for the time being.