Decrepit playgrounds now eligible for CPA funds

Town to seek study of how preservation funds might best be used
By Caitlin Russell | Jan 30, 2013
Photo by: Caitlin Russell Shangri-La playground is marred by graffiti.

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.

Comments (25)
Posted by: totellthetruth | Jan 30, 2013 16:57

Just a bit of history on these playgrounds. A good portion, if not all of these playgrounds were built/refurbished back around 1998-2000 by a CEDA grant.$88,000 was spent  on the Indian Mound playground. They built a ballfield there, but never finished it, they installed underwater water service, but never turned it on.

 We don't need a $20,000 study to tell us that these playgrounds have been vandalized .Unless we, as voters demand security cameras as part of the upgrades at all these playgrounds, they will just be destroyed again.

Posted by: bob | Jan 30, 2013 17:59

here we go again another study,there goes the dont have to be a rocket sciencets to determine the playgrounds are a mess....p.s. also why cant cpa funds be use to maintain the towns owned cemertaries...they are a mess also..

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jan 30, 2013 18:14

I will conduct the study for $10,000.  My opinion on the conditions will be just about the same as "professionals" will anyways.  They are messed up and need fixing.  No study necessary.

Posted by: Luke Duke | Jan 30, 2013 23:47

Spending $20k on a survey for a half dozen playgrounds??   I think we could be a little more creative.  Don't we have a selections of qualified building inspectors that could conduct a survey on behalf of the town and produce the same credible report at no cost?? I think we should be using the resources we have before making that kind of financial commitments like this.

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jan 31, 2013 06:43

I have often thought that all of these "surveys" and "studies" involve some behind the scenes handshaking and this one takes the cake.  Use the $20K to rebuild, not to line someones pocket to tell us how to put a swing set and monkey bars together.

Posted by: ltirish | Jan 31, 2013 09:21

It actually doesn't cost anything to have a playground inspected.  There are a number of playground companies who will do it for free.  Additionally, there are published play space standards (how high off the ground should a structure be, how much mulch is needed, how high should the mulch be, how often the bolts should be tightened, etc).  Moreover, for $20,000 you can build one shiny, new play space (with the help of volunteers) like the Decas did last year.  This is an uninformed request to waste funds that could be used elsewhere.

When the Decas playground was being re-moved and re-built it was impossible for the Committee to get assistance or an answer from the town of the WPS on who is actually in charge of overseeing and maintaining playgrounds. (Anyone else hear crickets?)  Once you can answer that question for me then I'll be happy to give advice and other opinions on when and if we should study playgrounds and rebuild them......

Posted by: totellthetruth | Jan 31, 2013 10:35

Ms. Irish is absolutely correct, There is a Code of Uniform Playground standards, I didn't look for it but I'm sure its Online. For example; Some years ago sand, and Ground up rubber tire mulch was the standard for playground ground cover. They realized that those items were less desirable, so the Standard now, is woodchips. That may even be obsolete now. Also, the Chain link fence around a Playground has to be a smaller mesh size than regular Chain Link,also the top rail of the fence must be covered with a PVC shield like you see at baseball fields. Pretty complex matter to build a playground ,but its all Online.


Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Jan 31, 2013 10:43

Ditto to the above posters.   A lot could be done with $20,000.

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Jan 31, 2013 11:53

When this item came before the Finance Committee is was approved, in part, because of the need for a comprehensive overview of what the town owns for recreational property and how we can best use that property.  The Open Space Committee previously cataloged town owned lands, which is quite a list, but much of that is currently unusable in its present condition.  While neighborhood playgrounds may not priorities, we need to look at other aspects of recreation, walking trails, picnicing, bicycle riding and canoeing/kayaking to see if/how they can benefit the town (think revenue generating activites)

This town has a lot of valuable resources and a lot of equally valuable volunteers -  town boards, conservation organizations,  and motivated citizens.  We need a plan to put them together and find direction.  If $20,000 can assist in that effort, it will be money well spent.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 31, 2013 18:35

Neighborhoods should fund raise and repair their own playgrounds. Most of the damage and defacing is done by the kids themselves, they then say awe there is nothing to do, the playground is crappy. I agree with Marilyn that there are many other aspects to recreation that are needed here in Wareham that don't revolve soley around kids.Maybe have matching funds from the Town to add to what is raised by the neighborhoods.

Posted by: sadie | Feb 01, 2013 07:53

Sphere, the money has already been collected from our taxes. I  would rather the money be spent on something Wareham residents can enjoy  rather then just continually buying land that no one can use. The CPA has the money, what would you like the money to be spent on?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Feb 01, 2013 09:24

I think it can be spent on playgrounds but not solely and not not without commitmnent from the neighborhood.Many neighboorhoods have no playgrounds while others allow their kids to decimate what the taxpayers have given them. Lets see how much they want a playground by how much they work towards it. I would love to see a real nice water fountain dedicated to the Wareham taxpayer.  

Posted by: totellthetruth | Feb 01, 2013 10:26

After seeing some of the financial debacles made by the "Town". I think it would be more likely that they would dedicate a urinal to the Taxpayers.

Posted by: Dick Paulsen | Feb 01, 2013 16:43

Study?  How many playgrounds do we have?


I'll tell you what we do have, the Senior Work-Off program where seniors get tax breaks for doing "things," things like (perhaps) going out in neighborhoods and doing what some consultant wants to charge $20,000 for.  And while they are at it, they can do an inventory of decrepit homes and yards filled with trash.


Tell you what, I will pop for the ten clip boards and the paper and pencils. OK, I get it, twelve clip boards, count me in.


This town loves consultants, "Ah another report, let's see where should we file it?"   "Seems most of the files are pretty full, better ask for a new file cabinet."


I have seen report after report after report, all with beautiful graphics, lovely letterheads, great looking tables and bills that follow that are astonishing.


Just because it is CPA money does not make it "free money," perhaps it is time to reconsider CPA. For starters, they could tell us how much they have both spent for consultants over the years and the tangible results of those studies? A certain building near downtown does come to mind.   Seems it was $50,000 for that study.  How long ago?  Maybe two years.  If I could only find the file........


Without apology, I am a "no" on this one.

Posted by: totellthetruth | Feb 01, 2013 18:02

Although I don't usually agree with Mr. Paulsons idealogy, I have too agree partially with him on this one.

CPA was a mistake from the start, we were told there were "matching State funds".Were do you think these State Funds originated? Our State taxes of course. Now the States "matching funds" have dropped to something like 26 %.  I would much rather see my $40 yearly CPA assesment  go to much more needed items such as School Busses, books or,C.O.A for starters.


Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Feb 01, 2013 19:46

So you make the argument that the money from the State is your State taxes, like it is some sort of bad thing, TTTT.  Would you rather see those State taxes you pay go to another town?  Do you think it will be given back to you or something if it isn't used for CPA funding?  Would you pocket the $40 and lose the ability to decide where the portion of the State taxes go?  I am guessing that if you had no CPA funds taken from you in your taxes, you wouldn't be writing a check to the town for "much more needed items".


Also, to Sadie, I believe that the money collected from the taxes for CPA funds isn't put into one large pot of cash to be used however they want.  A percentage has to go into each of the sub categories.  This makes it impossible for someone to go to the well and drain it dry for a project of, for example, open space.  There is only so much money in the funds for open space.  The rest of it can't be touched for open space projects once that money is gone.  At least that is how I understand it.  Of course, it has been proven in the past that we can take from it for frivolous lawsuit payments....

Posted by: sadie | Feb 02, 2013 07:45

Wanttoseechange, Thank you for the information; do you know where I could get a list of these sub categories’? I am not against open space but it seems the only money I can remember voting for was for open space. There was one gentleman that wanted money to fix up a house but that was defeated.

I agree with Mr. Paulson this town waste more money on studies and nothing gets done. The report gets filed and the consultants put the money in their pockets. $50,000 wasted on a study of the Tremont Nail to say the building is falling apart; we already knew that it was a mess. Someone said we needed another study to see how much it would be to paint the old town hall. All these studies were once called ESTIMATES. Have a company come in give an estimate of how much it would cost to fix each playground or one playground at a time. Get 3 estimates and FIX the playgrounds.

Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Feb 02, 2013 08:08

Why not put the money into the bike path? That fits into the category of "other recreation" and "revenue generating".  The study has been done and there's a working plan filed away somewhere.   I respectfully suggest that once a project is approved and underway it makes sense to continue/finish it before starting something else.

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Feb 02, 2013 08:47



This is from the MASS site:


"The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is an innovative tool for communities to address important community needs and finance specific community preservation acquisitions and initiatives. Once adopted locally, the Act requires the legislative body to annually appropriate, or reserve for future appropriation, at least 10% of the estimated annual fund revenues for acquistions or initiatives in each of the following three categories of allowable community preservation purposes: open space (excluding recreational uses), historic resources, and community housing. This allows the community flexibility in distributing the majority of the money for any of the three categories as determined by the community."

Posted by: sadie | Feb 02, 2013 09:38

Karen, I’m not 100% sure but I think someone has to ask for the money. In other words the bike path committee would have to ask the CPA for the money and then the CPA presents the request at Town Meeting.

Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Feb 02, 2013 14:38

The way I read Wantto's post is that money is available for open space "but excluding recreational uses".  Surely then playgrounds, and the bike  path for that matter, would be considered recreational.

How about improving Besse Park?

Posted by: Zephyr | Feb 02, 2013 15:15

This is what the original article says,

"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."

Recreational facilities are now included.

Posted by: sadie | Feb 02, 2013 19:09

Karen, they just spent almost $600,000 improving the waterway and parking at Besse Park.

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Feb 05, 2013 11:09

A few followup comments:  $25,000 of CPA money was given to the bike path for a study and $200,000 was voted/appropriated for the engineering phase which money has not yet been spent. Now that I am riding my own bicycle, I am interested in the progress of the bike path and will try to get an update on where we stand.

Note on Community Preservation projects (which include three categories- Historic Preservation, Open Space and Affordable Housing).  I have been told by several members of the CPC that it is their policy to review all projects for compliance with the CPC statute and if it meets the guildlines, to send it forward to Town Meeting.  They are only gatekeepers as to the legality of a project, not as to the advisablilty of it.  

With regard to playgrounds, neighborhood members did approach CPC for funds to repair certain playgrounds, but since it is town owned property and the proponent of the project must be the property owner, the town is involve.  It is my hope and desire that any of the playground projects MUST include neighborhood involvement.  We need to find a way to include abstract concepts like respect for property, cooperation and working together and pride in a job well done. The Decas playground remodelling was a wonderful example of all of that.  They showed us it can be done, but we need leadership to get us there.

Which brings me to another comment on volunteerism - we have lots of great ideas floating around the blogosphere, but seemingly no way to harness them.  Current staffing levels in town adminstration barely leave us enough manpower to get the basic job of running the town done.  There is little time for side projects. Idealistically, I would like to see our elected officials focus on community improvements with a plan/goal/vision.  In the meantime, this is a great time to individuals with initiative to step up - ie The Litter Mob (Thank you!)   

Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Feb 05, 2013 12:49

I too am interested in hearing about the progress/or lack thereof being made on the Bike Path.

I  agree that any projects have to include community involvement. It is to be hoped that communities would then develop a sense of pride and ownership and be willing to maintain whatever they've been involved in.

I don't think the Litter Mob is still active.  I and three others cleaned up about a mile of Minot Ave a few Sundays ago. It was a poor turnout. Unfortunately, there isn't a great deal of motivation within the community to step up and help out with improvements.

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