Fairy Castle: City still fixing 'world class' McGuffey Park
Less than three years after McGuffey Park received a controversial $700,000 make-over, work has commenced on a $75,000 repair job to correct several design flaws with what was promised to be a "world class" park.
For decades, sleepy little McGuffey Park sat at the top of Beck's Hill relatively undisturbed, its trees lush, its shade plentiful, its play equipment vintage but serviceable; but ever since the extensive 2007 renovation, the park, which gave up 13 mature trees in the process, appears to have rejected the change.
According to city parks and rec director Brian Daly, play equipment has deteriorated, a faulty drainage system has turned the entrance stairways into waterfalls during rain storms; and new trees, grass, and shrubs have simply refused to grow.
"We have had a very hard time keeping things alive without irrigation," says Daly.
Supporters of the park's renovation, namely a group called Friends of McGuffey Park, a trio of Downtown moms who sold the idea to city planners and raised over over $279,000 in private funds for the project, argued that the old park's play equipment and design had become dangerous and that it had become a place where "condoms and needles" were routinely found, and where hoodlums and drug dealers hung out.
Today, spending over $700,000 to renovate a 1.1-acre downtown park some considered unbroken might seem foolish. However, three years ago any suggestion that the project might be unnecessary use of city funds was met with fury from supporters of the renovation.
One supporter referred to the Hook's articles as a "vendetta" against the McGuffey Friends and suggested that a Hook reporter must have been "jilted" by one of the McGuffey moms. Seriously.
However, as previously reported, while police routinely responded to a handful of incidents each year before the renovation, the number of calls for service–- which have included incidents of vandalism, larceny, assault, disorderly conduct, and drug distribution–- have skyrocketed since the renovation.
According to police reports, there were 14 calls-for-service to McGuffey Park in 2008. That number rose to 74 in 2009, and it has already topped 100 in 2010.
Renovation advocates, including former parks and rec director Mike Svetz and the Daily Progress editorial staff, argued that the new design would solve the park's so-called crime problem. However, as park goers have observed, while the park has become popular with toddlers and their parents, it has also become popular with teens and young adults, who have taken to hanging out by the dozens in the early evenings, especially during Fridays After Five, prompting police to adopted a zero-tolerance policy on after hours trespassing.
What's more, the new sandbox area and slide that replaced an allegedly "dangerous" steel merry-go-round itself became a safety hazard when the sod around the slide began deteriorating just three weeks after it was installed. Children had a tendency to pour sand into a "weeping water wall," thereby clogging the system. Eventually the slide and the sand box area were removed.
According to Daly, a new preschool aged play structure called a "Fairy Castle" from Kompan is being installed, and instead of sand, "wood fiber safety surfacing" will be installed throughout the play area.
Other than that, the work will consist of repairs to the drainage systems beneath the surface of the park, as well as the installation of a new irrigation system in the central lawn area, the planting bed along Second Street, and in the southwest corner of the park in an effort to get things to grow. New ADA-compliant curb ramps and detectable warning plates are getting installed on the southeast corner, and warning plates on the south and northeast entrances.
Daly says the work should be completed by early or mid-January, weather permitting, and that officials will try to keep the park open during construction.