Berkley city, school officials collaborate to replace Angell play structure

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published November 25, 2015


BERKLEY — As part of ongoing planning in both the city of Berkley and the Berkley School District, a play structure at Angell Elementary School that had been deemed unsafe this fall will be torn down and replaced by the end of the school year.

The two entities announced the plan and collaboration Nov. 10. The city will remove the current play structure by the end of November, and the school district will install a new drainage system in the area next spring. Lastly, the city will install the new play structure.

The project falls in line with the city’s current process of evaluating all parks in the city while putting together the new parks and recreation master plan; it also falls in line with the school district’s current bond work.

“We fenced off the play structure after my staff viewed it on Sept. 22 of this year, and then we hired an inspector who deemed it unsafe for the kids,” interim Parks and Recreation Director Theresa McArleton said. “We have had a few meetings with the school district to design the plan, and there has been constant communication with the district while working together. In the spring, a new, comparable playscape structure will be put in the same area.”

McArleton said the new upgrades will be factored into the five-year master plan, which is expected to be completed by March of next year.

With the city covering the cost of taking out the old structure and putting in the new one, the City Council made a budget amendment during the Nov. 16 meeting to allocate $88,600 to the project. The city will take care of the demolition in-house. Half the funds will come from the general fund, and the other half will come from the recreation fund.

McArleton said that now was the right time to address the drainage.

“That area is similar to a lot of parks in the area — and not just Berkley — where some places have issues with drainage,” she said. “Since we are going to install new equipment, it makes sense to look at the drainage as well.”

Berkley Deputy Superintendent Larry Gallagher said the project is an expansion of bond work being done at Angell. Berkley voters approved a $58.9 million infrastructure and technology bond in May.

Part of the scope of the work at Angell included a new addition, and Gallagher said that with the play structure area getting heavy use throughout the school year, the district wanted to make sure it had the best play area possible.

“We have had an addition at Angell planned from day one, and it is in proximity to where the new play structure will be, so we will have our experts look at drainage, and we can extend the drainage work,” he said. “The kids use that area a lot, and it is a key piece of physical education. Not so much P.E. class, but they can release energy during lunch breaks, and it is just a key piece of the school.”

The city of Berkley leases the playground property from the school district, which owns it, to use as a city park — an agreement that began in 1974, McArleton said. The current play structure was installed in 1989, and getting about 26 years out of a play structure is the norm, she added.

In looking for the best play structure to get, McArleton said they will be looking for a structure designed for kids ages 5-12. While the school kids who play on it most are between the ages of 5 and 7, she said the city and schools want it to be sturdy enough for bigger kids and include play items such as slides and monkey bars.

“The nice thing about Berkley is there is always a park within walking distance of wherever you are,” McArleton said. “This park has a baseball field, basketball courts, swings and a play structure, and it is used all the time from the community. It is on school property, so kids are always playing there, but it is a community park too and gets a lot of use.”

Gallagher said the project is just the latest example of cooperation between the city and school district.

“The Berkley Schools has a solid reputation, and that is in large part because of the city, and vice versa,” he said. “We do other partnerships that may be mundane, like we buy bulk gas and rock salt from them, but to have a vibrant community and schools, we have to play off each other, and we are thankful for our relationship with the whole city.”