Harriet park playground

This empty patch of dirt contained a playground until the last week of July.

Anyone who went to the Concert in the Park at Harriet Park on Thursday, July 25, was likely to notice something was missing: a playground.

The 25-year-old tot spot with swings, a slide and ride-on toys in the northeast corner of the city’s oldest community park met its demise earlier that week after city officials deemed it was no longer safe.

While some residents have complained on social media and in emails they still had a use for it, parks and urban forestry director Dave Walker noted the playground structure lasted six years longer than it was originally supposed to.

“When the new structure was put up in 2013, we were planning to remove the old one but had some neighborhood inquiries about leaving it up,” Walker told the Press in an email. “It was not yet unsafe, and since we had moved the location of the new one, I agreed to leave it up until it became a hazard.”

This year, however, weather damage and years of use finally caught up to it, and the tube slide began to crack. Because the structure is so old, Walker said, replacement parts are no longer available and the sand base was not compliant with federal Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. It was also too close to the road to not have a fence separating it.

The much larger, more used playground closer to the middle of the park was supposed to replace the old playground, rather than add to it, Walker said.

He added that he had attempted to fund another playground in recent years, but that did not get the support of elected officials.

“I remember the Finance committee asking how many of our other parks had two playgrounds,” he said. “When I said none, they decided it would be a bad idea to start that trend, and it was taken out of the budget.”

Mayor Luke Diaz pointed out that the council today is an almost completely different group of elected officials and that it might be worth exploring whether a second playground is worthwhile having at the park.

Email Verona Press editor Jim Ferolie at veronapress@wcinet.com.