Lopez: Deterioration of playground forced its closure

Santiago Lopez Enlargephoto

Santiago Lopez

Fellow community members, and friends of the Ron Kotarski, Jr. Memorial Community Playground:

It is with great sadness and regret that we, the Dolores Town Board of Trustees, and staff, had to make the decision to close the playground located at Joe Rowell Park.

The decision came as a result of our town board members, staff and attorney making a “field trip” during our regularly scheduled town board meeting held on Sept. 11.

We looked closely at the playground with our town maintenance staff. We couldn’t believe how much the wood has deteriorated due to sixteen years of being exposed to the elements. Our town maintenance staff has done their best to maintain and keep the playground functioning all these years for all of us to enjoy. Unfortunately, the time has come for us to make a decision about the playground.

My fellow community members and friends of the playground, our playground has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer safe for our children and our community, as seen through the eyes of our town board members, staff and attorney.

While we know and understand that many of you, and friends of the playground, are upset and angered, we apologize. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused many of us. This was not an easy decision, but it was the right decision.

Many have asked, well, why wasn’t I, or we informed that the town board was going to be closing the playground?

Why wasn’t the community invited to be part of this decision making process?

Anyone is welcome to attend our town board meetings on the second Monday of each month, with a workshop on the fourth Monday of each month.

And there has been some discussion about the playground for quite some time. The playground has been “on the radar,” so to speak, for a number of years, as one of our town infrastructures needing to be completely renovated or replaced. This is not anything new.

We hoped we could have kept the playground open for a few more years, but that just isn’t the case. We understand that many of our citizens in our community, and friends of the playground, are upset; we are too. It was not an easy decision.

We sincerely apologize for the decision that was reached at our Sept. 11 regular town board meeting. The Town of Dolores board of trustees, with a recommendation from our town staff, maintenance staff and attorney highly suggested we close the park due to its current condition and possible liability issues.

Yes, we had a couple of wonderful community members advocating for not closing down the playground to give it some time before a decision was made.

The only decision made was to the close the playground, not tear it down. The reasoning behind the closure is two-fold. The first is the safety, welfare and protection of our children, community members and anyone visiting the playground. The second is we could not in good faith leave the playground open knowing how much the playground has deteriorated through the years. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.

Many have asked, what is the plan? We are looking into having a playground/structural engineer look at the playground to see if it is salvageable, or if it must be replaced. We, like you, do not want to see this beautiful, iconic structure that is a part of our town demolished.

We know that a group has formed, “Save Our Playground,” and we think that is awesome. Together we have to come up with a plan to completely renovate or replace the playground.

Let’s move forward and look at what we can do to make our community a better place for all.

Santiago Lopez is the mayor of Dolores. Reach him at santiago@townofdolores.com.