By Sara-Megan Walsh
More than a dozen excited children climbed over a Nesconset playground Monday afternoon, as families took in the park’s first upgrade in more than two decades.
Town of Smithtown officials celebrated the completion of $1.3 million in upgrades to three town-owned parks this week, which also came in approximately $62,000 under budget. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconest July 9, followed by a celebration for Gaynor and Veterans
Memorial parks in St. James held July 10.
“There is no more important mission we can do than to build parks like this for the children who are growing up here,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Joseph Andreoli Park, commonly referred to as Gibbs Pond park, received two new playgrounds. For older children, there are five different slides, several climbing obstacles and a swing set. A second area for younger children ages 2 to 5 consists of several tiny houses they go inside with interactive features.
“It’s visually appealing,” Shannon Cooley, a Nesconset resident, said as she watched her 3-year-old daughter play. “It’s colorful, not faded, and everything feels inviting and welcoming.”
Cooley said her favorite part of the renovations are the separate play areas created for young children and the new Classic Turf, a synthetic grasslike “shag rug” that replaced the former wood chips.
Both Cooley and Nesconset resident Morgan Tavis said they appreciated the modern, clean look, but if they had one criticism of the design, it would be a lack of shaded areas. “A shaded area for respite would make this into a full day activity,” Tavis said.
Wehrheim said there will be further improvements made at the Gibbs Pond park. Boy Scout Troop 566 has offered to build benches that will be installed by the town, according to the supervisor, and renovations to
make the bathrooms handicapped accessible are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. Shaded canopies will be installed over the playground’s slides, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo, to prevent them from becoming heated and potentially burning children.
“This is the first of many,” Wehrheim said, indicating more park renovations are in the works for 2019. “We made a commitment when we got elected, one of those commitments was to renovate and bring our parks into the future so I am very pleased and honored this afternoon to tell you we have kept that campaign promise.”
Both Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James have received similar upgrades, according to Smithtown Parks Maintenance Director Joseph Arico. Gaynor Park has received a similar new playground set and field upgrades. The existing tennis courts at Gaynor were fully resurfaced and the basketball court was enlarged from a half court to full regulation size.
Veterans Memorial Park, located off Moriches Road, had more recently received upgrades to its sports fields. Roughly $300,000 was spent to install a new playground set along with a new artificial grass surface and a resurfacing of the water park playground to improve safety, according to Arico.
Councilman Tom Lohmann (R), who served as the town board’s liaison to the parks department on the project, voiced his approval of the final product.
“We are putting money back where it belongs in our parks, beaches and infrastructure so that we, the residents, have a nice place to bring our children, grandchildren and enjoy this beautiful town,”