The Mercerdale Park playground, also known as Train Park. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

The Mercerdale Park playground, also known as Train Park. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Mercerdale Park playground renovation project is chugging along

City hosts public meeting on April 14.

Mercerdale Park is known for its popular train feature, and so it’s fitting that city Capital Projects Manager Paul West said that his team is trying to stay on the fast track with the playground renovation project.

The park is currently closed since the play equipment has reached its final depot after 19 years of substantial usage.

“It’s something that’s out of commission right now. We’re actually going to have to remove equipment from the site and we want to get it rebuilt this summer or at the latest by early fall,” West said of what he described as a well-loved and centrally located playground at 77th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 32nd Street.

According to a previous Reporter story, the city shuttered the 5,000-square-foot play area in January due to safety concerns and persistent standing water from clogged drainage by decomposing wood chips. New equipment, drainage and a rubber play surface are on the renovation docket, and the city council has chosen to fund the playground replacement in its 2021-22 Biennial Budget.

About 20 residents shared their opinions on the project at a virtual public meeting on April 14. They were engaged and appreciative for the chance to get involved, said West, adding that it’s the most interest a playground has garnered in the last decade.

Resident John Hamer said the city has reached beyond the drainage and antiquated equipment issues on the project.

“The city staff clearly listened to citizen concerns and have tried very hard to make the Mercerdale playground renovation plan fully accessible and truly inclusive,” he said. “This is vital for special-needs children like my grandson, but also for other children, parents, caregivers, and seniors. It can be an intergenerational community gathering place enjoyed by all for years to come.”

While maintaining the train theme, the project team aims to make the playground accessible to a range of users, inclusive of different play styles, provide several levels of challenge and make it fun and inviting. Swings, imaginative play features, climbing elements and much more will also be part of the design.

“The main issues for us is that we’re trying to design a playground in a fixed space that exists. Then we want them to be accessible to go beyond the minimum ADA requirements and to really try to expand the concept of the accessibility to all range of abilities,” West said.

Using the Zoom meeting polling feature, attendees weighed in on color, surfacing, structure height, climbing and spinning options and more.

West said the next stop on the train park’s journey will have the project team considering residents’ input, refining the playground design and presenting it to the Parks and Recreation Commission at its May 6 meeting. After some fine tuning, the next step would be taking the design before city council for approval at its May 18 meeting.

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