ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Rockford playgrounds are on the chopping block, as the park district works to condense amenities.
Experts said that playground equipment should be replaced every 15 to 20 years. Right now, more than two thirds of the playgrounds in Rockford parks are at that point.
The Rockford Park District currently maintains 82 playgrounds, with 59 of them more than 15-years-old and in need of repair. However, high renovation costs means that it is not feasible to update each and every playground.
Tom Lind, Project Manager with the Rockford Park District, is one of the people working on a plan that the park district can follow moving forward. He said that many playgrounds, such as the one at Saturn Park, which was closed to residents back in May, will be replaced.
“We do have a lot of older playgrounds, that are either at or beyond their useful life. It is a critical fact of our park district right now,” Lind said. The situation is that we are behind where we need to be, so we need to make a concerted effort to right size our playground footprint. This coming spring, we will be engaging the neighbors, and the users, of that [Saturn] park, and so we will have a new playground there next summer.”
Because of funding challenges, it is likely that others will eventually be taken down permanently.
“Looking at where we have existing playgrounds, and where we have existing playground overlaps, so potentially, multiple playgrounds in the same neighborhood,” Lind said. “Those sites are potential opportunities, if we were to reduce our footprint. Potentially, that could be a place to start.”
If playgrounds are removed from parks down the line, other facilities could be installed in their place. Lind said that figuring out the best solution will come down to balancing the park district’s financial situation, with the needs of the public.
“It does not have to be a playground. If there is a playground in the neighborhood, and another site where we have an existing playground, we could certainly remove that, and put in some other different recreational amenity that is still going to provide value to people that are coming out to that neighborhood park,” Lind said.
The park district is also looking into the possibility of transferring maintenance of some playgrounds to other public bodies, such as schools, to keep costs down.