Water cascaded from an overflowing bucket onto a couple of dozen children who frolicked on the newly reopened splash pad at Buzzards Bay Park. The playground, shuttered for nearly a year after an accident involving a toddler, reopened at 11 AM Monday morning, June 24.
Janet P. Butler of Pocasset brought her three grandchildren—Trey, 5, Dawn, 9 and PJ, 4—to the playground Monday morning. Ms. Butler said she brought the children over when she saw a post online announcing that the playground was open.
“They’re very excited. We came a couple of times last year,” she said.
Heidi L. Corcoran of Sagamore Beach said that her daughter, Payton, was delighted to have the playground reopened. Ms. Corcoran said that she and her daughter went to the park almost every day it was open last summer. The one day they missed was the day of the accident that caused the closure.
Ms. Corcoran said she and her daughter drove by every day and the youngster would always ask “Is it open yet?” On Monday, they had just gone to the store and happened to drive by the playground, she said.
“We saw it was open, went home quick, got changed and came right back,” she said.
Loretta K. Snover of Monument Beach works for the Bourne School District during the school year, and at Music of the Bay, a music camp on Holt Road in Buzzards Bay, during the summer. Ms. Snover was there with a couple of the studio’s students, Jonathan, 13, and Hallie, 11. Until it was closed last summer, the studio would bring children to the playground up to four times a week.
“They were so disappointed last year that it was closed,” she said.
Ms. Snover added that it was nice to see children of all ages enjoying the splash pad. She said she had seen youngsters from age 4 on up to a special needs child, who was a sophomore in high school, having fun.
“You got kids of all ages, that’s what it’s meant for,” she said.
In a text message to town officials on Monday, Bourne Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino announced that the playground reopened at 11 AM. Mr. Guerino noted that the playground had been “reconfigured in some areas that needed attention.”
In addition, he said, a daily walk-through will be conducted to ensure that the play area is free of such things as rocks, and that the playground equipment “is in correct working order.” Mr. Guerino also announced that the town has responded to concerns about too much water being used with the splash pad.
“Splash pad hours have been greatly reduced this year (40 percent) to help conserve water use,” he said.
The splash pad’s hours are 11 AM to 4 PM, and 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, he said. Also, the park will be closed to the public on Tuesdays to allow for maintenance, which will also decrease water usage, he said.
There have been physical changes made to the park, most of them in the interest of securing child safety. A rock wall that previously bordered the splash pad has been removed and replaced with grass. Signs have been posted at the playground entrance listing the rules to be followed.
Selectman Peter J. Meier was at the playground Monday and pointed out that, despite the signs, many parents were not paying attention to the posted rules. Even though the signs state that water shoes must be worn on the splash pad, the majority of the children using it were barefoot.
“We already have a problem,” Mr. Meier said.
The rules were instituted in the aftermath of the accident last summer that forced the closure of the playground. A 2-year-old girl suffered a severe cut to her toe while going down a slide. The toe was ultimately amputated. The incident occurred on July 10; the playground was closed indefinitely immediately after it happened.
Shortly after the accident, a certified playground safety expert, Nancy White, was hired to conduct a full review of the play area. Ms. White reported to the board of selectmen last November that the playground was deficient and may not comply with federal and state laws regarding the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Ms. White’s full audit has never been released for public view. In March, the Bourne Board of Selectmen voted to keep the record sealed in the event of future litigation brought against the town. In May, the selectmen approved release of a redacted version of the report. That document cited the lack of warning signs as the area of most concern relative to safety at the playground.
The highest concern was given to the category “Streets with heavy traffic.” Ms. White noted that there is heavy traffic in the area during the summer months, but “no signs, flashing lights, etc., indicating there is a playground/park in the area.”
Similarly, the category “Signs on all bordering streets advise motorists that a playground is nearby” raised misgivings due to the absence of such signs. In response, there are now signs on both sides of Main Street warning drivers they are approaching a playground.
Renovations to the playground were made, and the town had planned to reopen it by Memorial Day weekend. However, the late arrival of the signs delayed the opening.
The new playground, featuring a splash pad, drew hundreds of visitors last summer prior to its forced closure. The recently renovated park has been seen as a key to the revitalization of downtown Buzzards Bay and particularly the west end of Main Street.
The park project cost a total of $2.3 million, all coming through Community Preservation Act funds.