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Watertown planning for playground upgrades

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On a sunny summer afternoon on Friday, the Portage Street playground remained quiet of children playing.

But the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has big plans for the small playground that consists of two swings and a short tunnel between two tiny slides.

The playground will undergo a $90,000 overhaul in the city’s five-year capital plan next year. Playgrounds at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds and at Kostyk Field also will replaced in the coming years.

In all, the city plans to spend $285,000 on the three projects, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Scott M. Weller said.

The playground upgrades are part of the department’s long range plans to improve its equipment.

The city’s parks and recreation department has 10 playgrounds that dot the city.

“We’ve been getting them done,” he said.

During the past several years, the North Star playground on New York Avenue and equipment at North Hamilton and Academy streets were replaced.

Four of the 10 playgrounds are used for the city’s summer playground program. Those playgrounds are staffed and provide activities and free boxed lunches and snacks this summer.

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Watertown playgrounds offer free lunches

in Place 524 views

The city’s summer playgrounds program will offer free lunches and snacks for the first time in several years.

The four playgrounds are once again part of the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County’s free summer lunch program after a several-year absence.

Starting on Monday, boxed lunches of sandwiches, fruit and other items are available for all children. An afternoon snack is also offered.

Children will not be required to be registered prior to participating in the program as was once the case.

Kids can drop in at the four playgrounds at any time.

“They can ride their bikes or walk to them anytime,” said James J. Scordo, the parks and recreation department’s program manager.

The four playgrounds opened for the summer on Monday, but a thunderstorm closed them early on their first day. They will reopen for regular hours today.

This summer, playgrounds are at North Elementary School, Thompson Park, North Hamilton and Emerson Place.

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Parents met by changes to Watertown summer playground program

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WATERTOWN — A small group of children sat at a picnic table at the North Hamilton playground playing the board game Sorry on a pleasant summer afternoon earlier this week.

“Is it my turn?” asked 6-year-old Bryson VanPatten.

A few minutes later, the little boy got bored and joined a dodgeball game a short distance away.

It’s that time again for making Boondoggle projects, playing kickball and sitting down for a game of Sorry at the city’s summer playground program.

This summer, playgrounds are at the North Elementary School, Thompson Park, North Hamilton and alternate sites at Emerson Place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at Academy Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The staffed playgrounds are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until Aug. 12.

Two playground attendants are on duty at each playground, which includes playground equipment, a picnic table, porta-potty and access to water.

It’s the second summer that the playground program is back after an interruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But there are some changes that the city Parks and Recreation Department has implemented, which has caused some confusion.

Recently, parent Krystin LaBarge expressed some concerns and wanted some clarification about the program.

“It’s a wonderful resource for our community and I’m happy to see it’s happening, albeit with quite a few changes from the rec program in the past,” she said.

She’d like to see the parks department do a better job to let the public know that the program is available.

Ms. LaBarge also thinks that more detailed information should be provided to parents.

She also mentioned some confusion about its rules and policies, especially regarding whether parents need to attend the playgrounds with their children.

Scott M. Weller, parks and recreation superintendent, said it’s a drop in program that has to follow state Department of Health regulations.

If a child normally frequents the neighborhood playground on their own without a parent, they don’t have to have an adult with them and they are welcome to stay as long as they’d like, he said.

If the child is too young to visit on their own, they need to be accompanied by a parent, he said.

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Watertown school playgrounds still awaiting updates, progress slowed by reallocation of funds, COVID delays

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WATERTOWN — Before injuries occurred due to old playground equipment, the Watertown City School District said in 2019 it was taking steps to make necessary updates to three elementary school playgrounds in the district: Ohio, Starbuck, and Knickerbocker.

To that end, $200,000 had been put aside for the 2019-20 school year for the playgrounds — the first time money had been allocated in the budget specifically for playgrounds, aside from annual allotments for woodchips — and planning had begun for what needed to be done at the various district playgrounds.

Now, in 2021, the work that the district had been planning years ago has still not been done and the funds reallocated to other projects deemed more essential at the time.

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