Some Ventura Park upgrades set for Collins Day, politicians say

Ventura Park in Lower Mills, languishing still without the repairs promised in 2015, will finally see some improvement, said state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and state Rep. Dan Cullinane after a meeting with Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) officials, including deputy commissioner Matthew Sisk, on Tuesday.

Forry and Cullinane told the Reporter about hearing from constituents that the playground area was incomplete and unsafe even as some children were making use of it.

The meeting came about “as a result of our own individual frustrations with the delays in the project, as well as hearing from a number of constituents and stakeholders that depend on using the park, and how vital of a resource it is for our young children… and it’s summer time,” Cullinane said. “We had fully expected the park to be completed at this point. It is not.”

After what those present described as a positive session, work was scheduled to take place at the park and playground before this weekend. On Saturday, Cedar Grove Baseball will be celebrating Collins Day, its annual field day at the park.

“This has been a long time coming,” Forry said. “For over 20 years, there’s been no investment in this park.” The legislators were able to secure funding in last year’s budget, much of which went to improving drainage around the baseball field, but the children’s playground is “the remaining piece,” Forry said.

About $20,000 has been added to the $250,000 already secured for the park renovations, the delegation said. This would include improvements to pathways, park benches, and the basketball courts, Sisk said.

The delays have been caused by issues with the contractor charged with making the park renovations, along with improper storage of materials over the last winter, which led to warped equipment, Forry and Cullinane said. Sisk said an assessment of the site identified some parts that needed to be swapped out. Hemmed in by plastic fencing, the incomplete playground was accessible to enterprising children. DCR will be installing chain-link fencing while repairs are being completed, Forry said.

For this weekend, when families will flood the park, DCR will have a soft opening. They sent officials out on Tuesday afternoon to evaluate the site and determine what work needs to be done to make the park safe and operational for the Collins Day festivities.

“DCR makes priorities in its inventory and where it spends its resources,” Sisk said. “The community has been active in trying to get the park renovated, and they’ve succeeded.”

The Ventura Playground will be closed again after Saturday. DCR officials have committed to a permanent opening for the “beautiful gem” of a park in July, Forry said.