Decrepit playgrounds now eligible for CPA fundsTown to seek study of how preservation funds might best be used
Open space. Historic preservation. Affordable housing. Jungle gyms and kayak launches?
The Massachusetts Legislature has amended the Community Preservation Act to allow CPA funds to be used for recreational facilities -- even if those facilities were not originally purchased with CPA funds. And Wareham's Community Preservation Committee is wasting no time considering how that change could benefit Wareham.
“Why not start looking at upgrading our playgrounds in Wareham, just to update them and make them safer?” Community Preservation Committee member Sandy Slavin asks.
Wareham’s Municipal Maintenance Department and Slavin's committee will ask April's Town Meeting to earmark $20,000 in Community Preservation funds for a study of Wareham’s playgrounds and recreational facilities.
Slavin hopes the study will be complete in time to get CPA grants for recreational facilities approved at fall Town Meeting.
The money in the CPA fund is generated by a three percent property tax surcharge, with the first $100,000 of a property's assessed value exempt from the levy. Matching state funds come from a tax on property transfers.
One of the purposes of The Community Preservation Act is to help cities and towns acquire and develop outdoor recreational facilities. The original version of the law, passed in 2000, restricted the use of CPA funds for recreation projects to land that was purchased with CPA money.
According to Slavin, some of the playgrounds in Wareham are in such a state of disrepair that they’re not safe for kids to use.
“Once we have a study done, we can focus on our worst [playgrounds],” said Slavin. “We need to make it so parents will let their kids play on them. … No parent wants their kid playing at a playground where the equipment is broken.”
Some playgrounds are hurting far more than others. Slavin said that two of the worst are the Shangri-La playground and the Weweantic playground.
Sienna Flynn, along with fellow Shangri-La resident Jennifer Borelli, last fall submitted an application for CPA funds to rehab their neighborhood's playground. However, the request must be made by the property owner, which in this case is the town of Wareham.
“It sort of brings down the neighborhood. It’s depressing. You drive by, and you can’t use it,” Flynn said of the Shangri-La playground.
She said she takes her two daughters to Rochester and Marion playgrounds.
“The property needs a good clean up. There are lots of bits of broken glass in the sand, and there’s missing boards on the equipment,” said Flynn.
One of the purposes of the study is to find out how much it will cost to build, refurbish, and maintain recreational facilities in Wareham. There are 15 playgrounds listed in the CPC’s request, including three at elementary schools.
"I believe it’s a worthwhile endeavor to find out what the community’s needs are in this area," said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan. "You want to have nice areas for people to bring their children."
The town's Open Space and Recreation Plan, which can be found here, identified a number of improvements that need to be made to Wareham’s recreational facilities, including equipment replacement, upgrading ball fields, and enhancing lighting and signage.
Kids wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from such newly allowed recreational projects. In addition to working on the playgrounds, Slavin hopes to establish more “passive recreation” sites in Wareham. Passive recreation includes things such as kayak launches, walking trails, and benches.
“If you look at the Oakdale property, it abuts Agawam [River]. Why don’t we have a kayak launch there?” she asked.
It won’t happen overnight, but the project’s first hurdle will be having the study approved at spring Town Meeting.
“It’s a process, and this is the first step,” said Slavin.