Easement cash could help expand playground budget for Murrysville Community Park
Murrysville officials learned an important lesson in their quest to create a “destination park” for the municipality: $200,000 doesn't always buy a lot of playground equipment.
Council had initially floated a bond and earmarked about $300,000 to create a playground and splash park at Murrysville Community Park. Council members were pleased with the $100,000 splash park concept but underwhelmed with the playground concepts they would be able to purchase with the remaining $200,000.
“I think it's worth thinking about expanding the budget,” said Councilman Carl Stepanovich, “with the caveat that it looks like there may be some extra money to help make it happen.”
That extra money will come from a $204,000 easement through the park, granted to Dominion Energy in April. Dominion plans to use the easement for a 30-inch gas transmission line.
“We floated a bond issue specifically for emergency equipment and development of Murrysville Community Park,” municipal Chief Administrator Jim Morrison said. “When we discussed the easement, Dominion asked that at least $50,000 of it go back into the park, and so we felt putting (all of) it back into the park made sense.”
Both Morrison and recreation Director Carly Greene said they preferred a modular playground concept which is integrated into the park's existing sloped landscape, rather than one that would require moving earth to create a large, flat area.
One option, modeled on a park in Minnesota, included a two-story faux-wooden tower, a two-story slide and a separate cabin along with several other features. It carried a price tag between $500,000 and $600,000.
“We don't like the price, but we like the structure because it's really able to utilize the space as it's out there today,” Morrison said. “I'm certainly not advocating (spending) a half-million dollars, but we do think it's worth considering expanding the budget.”
The playground is planned for a roughly 50-by-100-foot area, and most of the concepts eschewed the traditional swing set, which did not sit well with some council members.
“I would like to see swings,” Councilwoman Jamie Lee-Korns said. The park's Leftwich Pavilion does have swings, but “I don't think parents will want to go from one place to the next to accommodate kids who want to use the swings,” she said.
Councilwoman Toni Brockway agreed, noting that a mix of swing types would establish an area entire families can use.
“You can have baby swings there as well as adult swings,” she said.
Morrison said municipal staff would come back to a future council meeting with new concepts that could include swing sets, if they can make room.
One concern all council members seemed to share was that the playground should not have too specific a theme.
“(That) may have a counter-effect to what we're trying to do, which is make it as attractive as we can and really make it a destination park,” council President Josh Lorenz said, adding that he'd like council to explore some alternative revenue streams to offset the cost of upgrades.
“If there are any grants out there, I think we should be scouring for those,” he said. “Corporate sponsorship is another avenue I think we could explore ... and to the extent that we can get our very capable municipal staff for things like site work and earth-moving, that could also help bring those costs down.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer.