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Rocketship Park plan in the works

Proposal calls for nature-like structures any child can use

Above, kids play at Rocketship Park earlier this year. The village is looking at redesigning the park. File photo

January 29, 2013 | 05:09 PM
Rocketship Park may no longer have a rocket ship when it is redesigned, but it could incorporate play equipment that is more natural-looking and handicap-accessible.

Chris Dwyer of L.K. McLean Associates, the firm working on the redesign, presented proposed plans for the village park at the Jan. 28 meeting of the Port Jefferson Board of Trustees. He estimated the proposal would cost the village $358,000, based on average costs for equipment and construction.

"Our desire was to make it a place that any child, regardless of limitations, could play and not feel segregated," Trustee Adrienne Kessel said about the park next to the tennis and basketball courts between Barnum Avenue and Main Street.

"The existing equipment right now has reached the end of its shelf life. … It was no longer cost effective to try to replace or repair it."

Kessel also noted that modern play equipment that looks like a rocket ship is hard to find.

The proposal includes a play structure that looks and feels like wood — but is made of plastic — and has a 16-foot slide and climbing areas.

"As soon as I saw that, I thought of the hobbit," Trustee Larry LaPointe said.

The roughly $108,000 structure is the most expensive item in the plan, followed by concrete sidewalk installation at an estimated $19,125.

Other play elements Dwyer proposed are stepping stones — plastic fashioned to look like boulders — and swing sets that have different types of seating to accommodate kids young and old as well as the disabled.

Kessel noted that nearby St. Charles Hospital does a lot of rehabilitation work with children, and this park would be somewhere these kids could go.

Bob Tumilowicz, who works in the village treasurer's office, said the proposal for the park includes grass, concrete and other types of surfaces "that would be wonderful in teaching them how to walk."

Tumilowicz added the village could work with St. Charles to apply for grants to help cover the cost of the park.

Other fundraising opportunities, Kessel said, include creating a memorial system in which people can donate to the park in exchange for having a loved one honored in it.

The proposal also incorporates picnic tables, a community garden and plantings surrounded by low walls that double as seating.

The proposal's price tag sparked a discussion about doing the project in phases, such as starting with building only the base infrastructure of the park, like the ground.

"Aren't you essentially not going to have a park?" Trustee Lee Rosner asked, if the park is built in phases rather than the village funding the entire project.

Kessel said there are certain pieces of the park that the village could hold off on funding, such as the large wood-like play equipment.

"There are some things though if you hold off on them in year one, you wind up five years from now still holding off," LaPointe said.

The Board of Trustees did not make a final decision on the park proposal or hammer out how the village would pay for the redesign.

Treasurer Don Pearce said in August, when the trustees voted to engage L.K. McLean Associates to put together a new Rocketship Park design, that the village had set aside about $72,000 for recreation purposes, funds that could go toward rebuilding Rocketship.

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