Rockford’s Saturn Park playground closing due to ‘outdated materials’ hazardous to kids

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The playground at Saturn Park on Garrett lane in Rockford is now closed to the public.

The Park District says it’s made out of outdated materials that could be harmful to children. They add that this doesn’t have to be the end of the road for the jungle gym.

There are a few options when it comes to paying for new equipment.

“This isn’t new. We have been addressing playground replacement for years,” said Lori Berkes-Nelson, the director for the Rockford Park District Foundation.

Park District officials say the structure built in 1996 was starting to show signs of age and posed a risk to kids.

“It’s one of the dying wooden structures, last of that breed. We don’t put those in any longer because they don’t last, the wood doesn’t last,” said Berkes-Nelson.

Lori Berkes-Nelson says the plan is to tear down the wooden structure and build a new playground, but there is no room in the district’s operating budget to fund the project.

“The community told us we want things that are free and accessible to all of us. We want that to be where our tax dollars go. The hard part is, there are so many parks and playgrounds,” said Berkes-Nelson.

The foundation will now look for grant opportunities and private donors to contribute money towards a new playground.

Officials say it could cost in the range of $150,000 to complete the project. They’re hoping they’ll be able to come up with the money sooner rather than later.

“Most of the big assets and the vitalization of the park district has come from private donors. You look at Sinnissippi Park, the first park, was a donation,” said John Torrence, the foundation’s Playground and Parks Committee Chair.

The decision to close the playground comes as a developer looks to build a new apartment complex on nearby Garrett Lane. But Berkes-Nelson says that wasn’t a consideration for the shutdown.

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