The state of the playground at the Atascosa River Park was one of the issues discussed at the March 15 Pleasanton City Council meeting.
Comprising the council are Mayor Clinton J. Powell, Jimmy Magel (Dist. 1), Abraham Saenz (Dist. 2), Janet M. Jackson (Dist. 3), J.R. Gallegos (Dist. 4), Roger G. Garza (Dist. 5) and Jeanne B. Israel (Dist. 6).
No action was taken on the playground, as it was not an agenda item, but brought up as an initiative during the City Manager’s Report.
Gallegos recently visited the playground, which is in his district. He said he noticed many problems, as well as some “interesting odors.”
“The swings, the tires, nails, water in the playground where the slides are at. I think we’re going to have to make a decision,” said Gallegos, “because of the article in Wednesday’s paper. I didn’t realize that it was in that bad condition.”
Gallegos advised that they move quickly on the issue because of liability reasons and because of several things that are unsafe. He added that he did not know what the solutions and options are, but they needed to move quickly on it. Perhaps they should close it down, suggested Gallegos.
City Manager Bruce Pearson said he appreciated Gallegos’ comment. He also visited the park with Public Works Director Johnny Martinez.
Said Pearson, “I think he and I are both of the opinion that there are a lot of things that may not look good, but there are less things that are dangerous. The Park Superintendent went there after lunch to make a list of those critical items that deal with children’s elbows, knees, seat of their pants and backs of their legs. We’re going to repair those items first.”
Pearson said it was probably a good idea to close it down until the city feels it is safe enough for children to slide, climb and swing.
Pearson also marveled at the work that had gone into constructing the playground.
“I was very surprised when I went there this morning to see that huge monument thanking the folks that contributed to that,” said Pearson. “I was even more surprised when I walked through there with Mr. Martinez — what an architectural marvel. It really is something. We think we would like to take the chance to try to save it.”
Pearson said it would not ever look like it did in 1987, or even 1995, but he thought they could get it to the point where it can continue to be used.
He agreed the tires were in bad shape. Martinez said they have some tires at the maintenance yard that they could replace them with.
“We’re going to look at what we need to do. They were supposed to make that list this afternoon. We think that it may be salvageable,” said Pearson.
It was to Pearson’s understanding that the playground was designed by an architect with some notoriety and there was a maintenance manual turned over to the city. He said at noon he and Martinez found the manual.
“I can assure you, that it will not be allowed to get in that condition again,” said Pearson.
The city manager also noted that last fall, council gave direction to look at what it would cost to replace the playground. Since then, nothing had been done until today, when they looked at it,” said Pearson.
They should have the chance to at least try to get the equipment back to where it was, said Pearson. To replace it would cost half-million dollars, said Pearson. He mentioned that even simple playscapes with just a slide and some steps are $25,000- $30,000.
Magel and Pearson discussed the volunteer help that went into making that playground a reality, as well as some who came in from Lackland and Kelly Air Force Base to assist. Garza asked how long it would take. Pearson said they would have to wait until the list was made first, but he emphasized that the playground issue is a priority. Pearson said he thinks the city will close it down until the necessary repairs are made for children to play safely on it. Anytime wood is exposed, there is going to be deterioration.
Israel said she wanted to take the time to thank Mr. Pearson for being on top of the issue. She also wanted to make a comment about how much they appreciate the Pleasanton Express, but expressed her displeasure with the front page article describing the bad conditions of the park.
Jackson said the citizens would be thrilled if they were able to salvage the playground. She thought maybe the smell Gallegos mentioned was from cats. She also suggested replacing the sand with another material. She also thought umbrellas could help keep the slides cool. Pearson said there are wood chips made for parks that would help. Gallegos said the odor was not from cats, it was more of an “illegal odor.” Saenz asked about the lighting and Gallegos also asked about the paving in the park. Pearson said they will need to do some reshaping on part of the road. It should be on the agenda of an upcoming meeting.
Park closed until repaired
Mayor Powell commented “I was happy to know that Mr. Pearson evaluated the site and feels certain they can rehabilitate the current playground. This is the best route to take. This playground has been a fixture for 25 years.”