By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
The meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners was filled with many citizens hoping to voice their concerns about Kern Park.
The co-chairs of the Kern Park Association, Richard Johnson and Mary Rydingsward, both spoke, Rydingsward on behalf of the wetlands and Johnson in protest of the continued acts of vandalism that occur at the park.
Johnson explained to attendees that no matter what project was incorporated into the park, be it basketball and tennis courts, walking trails or birdhouses, vandals would destroy them. “Do not repeat wasting taxpayers money on a project that won’t work,” said Johnson.
He advocated that “Kern Park” become the “Kern Nature Park,” in order to protect the wetland areas that are continuously disrupted due to garbage, and the wildlife that have made their homes there.
Rydingsward described wetlands as being “nature’s kidneys,” saying that it takes about 50 years for nature to turn soil into the soil of wetlands. “Wetlands cannot be recreated somewhere else,” said Rydingsward. “The soil acts as a sponge, and filters the water.”
After much discussion from the co-chairs and other concerned citizens that live in the Edgewood District, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu decided that the matter, listed on the meeting’s agenda as “Discuss the future reuse of Kern Park and take any action as necessary,” “needs to go to a committee.”
Park Board Superintendent, Brian Wilson, introduced Michael Fortuna from TLB Architecture, to give a report on the necessary updates needed for the Page Park Pool. Fortuna explained that TLB assessed the pool and pool decks, as well as the building on site. The emphasis of his report is on the pool and the decks.
Structurally, the pool and deck are both sound. But, from a conditions standpoint, explained Fortuna, there is room for improvement.
“Nothing that we identified is imminent risk,” said Fortuna. “But thinking long term, those decks are going to be something that you have to deal with.”
For example, he explained that because the pool did not meet code to allow diving boards, hence their removal, it makes more sense to level out the nine foot end of the pool. By making that end only five feet deep, that would save about fifty to sixty gallons of water that would no longer have to be syphoned in, treated, filtered, and then removed for winter.
In his presentation, the list of recommended immediate issues came to a total of about half a million dollars. The presentation also included designs and costs of renovating the entire pool.
After some discussion, the board decided to have Fortuna and TLB revisit the list of recommended immediate issues to reflect fixing the pool to last through Summer 2018, with the hopes of renovating the pool for future use. This would include revamping the shape and possibly adding a zero-depth entrance in order to make it handicap accessible.