CORTLAND — People driving or walking by Suggett Park in Cortland recently may have noticed playground equipment that once filled the park is gone.
The equipment was removed over the past three weeks, trees were trimmed and the ground was leveled, said John McNerney, director of the Cortland Youth Bureau. It’s all part of $500,000 in city playground renovations that will eventually lead to the installations of Cortland County’s first inclusive park, where people with disabilities can use the equipment.
The old wake pool and fence at Suggett Park has been removed to make room for a new splash pad, McNerney said. The 3,500-square-foot pad will feature 15 spraying features.
McNerney expects delivery of equipment next week, with installation the two weeks after that. “The weather plays a huge factor,” he said.
McNerney hopes to open the Suggett Park playground by early June.
Recreation Supervisor Andrea Piedigrossi had said that once rebuilt, Suggett Park on Homer Avenue, Madison and Hamlin streets will be the only allinclusive park in the county. The closest park now is around 40 miles away at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool.
Some of the equipment includes a glider that accommodates wheelchair, a whirl— a ground-like merry-go-round — new swings and a sound panel including drums, pianos and other features.
Poured rubber will cover the ground instead of traditional chips or gravel. The rubber is expected to last around 20 to 25 years.
Beaudry Park remains open and work on improvements are not expected until July, McNerney said. All playground equipment at the Scammell Street park will be removed and new equipment will be consolidated into one area, Piedigrossi has said.
Can rocket slide be saved?
When the Cortland Youth Bureau presented plans in March to renovate Suggett and Beaudry parks, the future of one piece of iconic equipment became clouded.
The rocket slide, which was built in the 1960s, was added to the list of equipment expected to be removed from Beaudry Park. The over 15-foot-tall slide features two levels for kids to play on. The outline of the slide mimics a rocket one might see from Buck Rogers.
The slide was up for removal after the city’s insurance, New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, said it didn’t meet U.S. playground safety regulations.
Cortland County Legislator Linda Jones (R-Homer) was contacted by people who wanted to see the rocket slide stick around. Jones met with John McNerney, director of the Cortland Youth Bureau, to discuss options. “If it couldn’t be used as a slide, could it be preserved in another way,” she said.
The iconic rocket slide, which was built in the 1960s, sits in the sun at Beaudry Park. The slide may be part of the equipment removed during a playground renovation the summer at the park.
Jones had two suggestions: take the slide off and seal the second level; or remove the slide, close the structure off completely and turn it into a memorial.
McNerney said he met with Jones and then went on to meet with the insurance company. “They made recommendations to save the slide,” McNerney said.
McNerney said the city now has to weigh the costs to see if it’s feasible. McNerney did not want to get into the recommendations until the costs had been assessed.
After meeting with McNerney, Jones dropped plans to pursue the topic further, she said. She also squashed the rumor of the slide moving to the county’s Dwyer Memorial Park in Little York.
Consolidating equipment, creating an area for 2- to 5-year-olds and one
for 5- to 12-year-olds, would help keep kids away from the road as current equipment is around the perimeter of the park.
Heather Clark was spending part of her day Wednesday with her son, Bentley, 3, at Beaudry Park.
Clark said she usually takes Bentley to the park at Barry Elementary School, but when school is in session they visit Beaudry. Bentley’s siblings are older so coming to the park allows him to play. “It gives him the opportunity to meet other kids and socialize,” she said.
She likes that the playground features age-appropriate equipment for her son, like a piece in the shape of a truck and slides that aren’t too tall.
While Suggett Park is under renovations people can go to either Beaudry, Yaman or Dexter parks.
Two playground structures were added last year to Dexter Park on Elm Street — which include new swings, benches, resurfacing of basketball and tennis courts and new fencing.
The projects are funded by a $500,000 state grant.
The Youth Bureau has been working with Recreation Miracle, a company that specializes in playground equipment, to design the new playgrounds, McNerney said. A number of ideas were taken into consideration, including, ages of children who will use it, space available and accessibility.