Safety concerns have emerged, and Mayor Tommy Irwin said he has been in favor of its removal for some time.
“It’s like anything else — something is great when it’s new,” he said. “Everything gets dated.”
A letter drafted by City Attorney Wendell Trapp to the park board and director, dated Thursday, states, “The City is concerned that portions of the playground equipment have deteriorated to such an extent to create potential safety hazards. It is the City’s belief that the playground is probably not in a state that can be salvaged and therefore should be demolished (and the City will be willing to help with the demolition, if needed).”
Board of Supervisors President Jimmy Tate Waldon said it is something the county will need to discuss before acting.
A contractor is going to examine the structure, and Supervisor Tim Mitchell will be interested in hearing the results.
“I do not want it to be unsafe for children,” he said.
But he believes the park may be able to get it back up to par.
The city wants to pursue a replacement for the fun station.
“It will be exciting to have something to look forward to,” said Irwin. “I’m not saying what the project is going to be right now because I don’t know exactly. But I’ll put it this way — we’re going to get it right.”
The building of the “fun station” was the focus of a huge community volunteer effort in 2002 through a Lowe’s program that was popular at the time. Some work has been done on the playground in recent times with the assistance of Lowe’s, including replacing broken and rotten wood, sealing the wood and painting.
“That was remarkable and gracious on their part to help extend the life of the playground just a little longer,” said Park Director Ray Holloway.
The playground, now sealed from access with yellow tape, has been an ongoing issue for the park. Holloway said wooden playground structures, although popular for their natural look, simply do not hold up well over time.
A new playground was considered as part of the recent park expansion but did not make the final cut.
Ward 1 Alderman Andrew “Bubba” Labas said he is hearing some concern from contributors to the E.S. Bishop Park playground project, for which private funds are being raised, about the possibility of the city building a new playground at the city park.
“The city doesn’t have any plans put together as of yet,” he said. “It’s going to be something we’re going to have to take under advisement and figure out how we’re going to pay for it.”
The city board’s action Wednesday evening was made in a second open session following a closed-door session for personnel and litigation matters.
Both the city aldermen and county supervisors make appointments to the park commission that oversees the facility.