Work set to begin on Sycamore Park

The city of Pickerington has been without a playground since floodwaters swept away the mulch from Victory Park in June.

Sure Sycamore Park has swings and a few slides, but its preschool-level equipment does not interest the distinguishing elementary-age adventurer nor does it cater to more than a half dozen children at a time.

Now that the nice summer afternoons have faded into chilly school days, work is set to begin on Victory Park’s playground.

"In the 10 years I have been here, we have had more calls about Victory Park than any other issue with the parks," Pickerington parks director Steve Carr said. "It’s a testament to its popularity and its use. Once it is operational again, it should be well-received by the community."

Staking and excavating should begin this week with the entire project completed by mid-November, Carr said.

"We didn’t do this project quickly, but hopefully we will do it right," Carr said.

There will be four separate pieces of equipment. The first piece, a new swing set, will have four baby bucket swings and four rubber swings for older children.

For preschoolers, there will be a traditional-style play set, where they can climb onto a platform then slide back down.

For elementary-age kids, the city ordered the "new generation of equipment.  Kids will use their imagination more, rely on balance more, and engage in a more thorough workout," Carr said.

The fourth piece will be a low climbing wall with hand and foot holds.
The elementary-age equipment has been sitting in a warehouse for more than a year now. Renovations were originally planned to begin last spring even before the flood wiped away the mulch and closed the park.

The city says there are multiple reasons for the delay. For example, the parks department wanted to research a better safety service than mulch. The new equipment will set over a field of fake grass – the same turf used in high school and college football stadiums.

The artificial turf looks and feels similar to a real lawn. Particles of black rubber help keep the "grass" from becoming matted and provide an extra level of cushioning.

Additionally, the new ground cover will drain well, will not wash away, and will require little maintenance, Carr said.

Pickerington also decided to design and construct the playground in-house. With extra money the city saved by using city staff instead of hiring someone else, the parks department purchased more equipment, which the city had to wait to receive.

Mother Nature also played a role in the delay. In addition to washing the mulch from the playground, the spring flood wreaked havoc across the city.

Sycamore Park experienced damage to its softball fields and putting greens, the police department lost a cruiser, and the culvert on Meadows Boulevard washed into the stream. The cash-strapped city had planned to replace the rusting culvert for several years, however it could never find the cash. To fix it at the lowest cost, Pickerington opted to use its own workers.

The culvert replacement took priority over Victory’s playground.

The start date on the park was pushed back into September, but along came Hurricane Ivan. City workers spent weeks helping residents clear broken trees.
The parks department will pay for the playground using mostly impact fees collected over the past few years from the builders of new homes. For each house built in Pickerington, the department collects $1,608.

By law, the city may only use the park impact fees to buy land or buy equipment for the parks. The project would have cost $110,000 had the city hired a company to design and install the equipment; however, the project will only cost $65,000, Carr said.

An $18,500 Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant will pay for the elementary-age equipment and some funds will be used from the park department’s operation budget to pay for the base, Carr said.

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