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Charleston officials look to close West Side playground

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston city officials want to cease operating one small playground and spend about $25,000 to build two new ones.

Members of the Charleston Parks and Recreation Committee unanimously voted to cease operations at the public playground on Palm Drive off Sissonville Road during a meeting on Wednesday.

Committee members also agreed to spend $25,000 to construct new playgrounds on Charleston Urban Renewal Authority-owned property on Jackson Street near the Roosevelt Center in the city's East End and on Magic Island near downtown and the West Side.

The city can purchase $50,000 worth of equipment from PlayTime Playgrounds for $25,000 until the middle of November, Committee Chairwoman Susie Salisbury said.

The committee also will seek funding from Keys 4 HealthyKids and Urban Renewal to help pay for any additional expenses.

The new playgrounds do not need approval of the full council. Salisbury hopes to have them constructed by the spring.        

Playgrounds on Oakridge Drive off Greenbrier Street and Spence Drive off Wertz Avenue also were on the chopping block, but committee members decided against closing them, at least for now. 

The city operates and maintains all three facilities but doesn't own them. Councilman Andy Richardson, an at-large Democrat, said the city pays a total of $1,734 per year to rent them from private residents.

The city has rented the space for the Palm Drive playground since 1969 and has spent $12,900 on it over the years.

The playgrounds are underutilized and in disrepair, South Hills Republican Councilman Courtney Persinger said. He supported closing all three.

The city also has to pay employees to maintain the playgrounds.

"The one on Oakridge is in terrible shape," he said.

The Spence Drive playground is a "bizarre" situation because it sits almost in an individual's front yard, Persinger said.

"And that just happens to be the people we're paying rent to," he said.

Persinger also pointed out that there was no way for children to safely walk to the playground. However, it was the most used of the three up for closure, Richardson said.

"And people walk there from Wertz Avenue," he said.

Democratic Councilwoman Shannon Snodgrass opposed closing the two playgrounds. Both are in her ward. Children living in that area have few outdoor recreation opportunities, and closing the two playgrounds would only make matters worse, she said.

She said rent for the two playgrounds was minimal.

They will be kept open while Snodgrass asks the property owners if they would be willing to donate the land to the city.

One of the reasons the committee opted not to close two of the three playgrounds is because youngsters do utilize the facilities.

Salisbury, a Fort Hill Republican, was unsure when the Palm Drive playground would close. She was also unsure if the closure would have to go before the full council. City Attorney Paul Ellis will review the lease and research the issue.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.   Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon. 

 


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