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April 15, 2014

A splash pad for Point park's future?

Fountains would help kids beat the heat

SALEM — The city wants Mary Jane Lee Park to make a splash.

Officials have plans to build a “water activity splash pad” in the park, which is located in the Point neighborhood. A splash pad is a children’s attraction that typically features fountains and possibly a basin.

“Essentially, it’s an area of the playground where different kinds of water sprays, fountains, etc., provide a place for families to ... beat the heat, without the expense or space consumption of a pool,” said Dominick Pangallo, Mayor Kim Driscoll’s chief of staff.

The project would be funded by a $200,000 state grant, which would also cover the cost of bringing new benches, trees and shade structures to the park. The grant requires no matching funds from the city, but construction needs to be completed by the end of this calendar year, and the city must spend its own money and then get reimbursed.

The City Council must approve that expenditure. The proposal came up briefly at last week’s council meeting before councilors sent it to a subcommittee for study.

The project could end up costing more than the $200,000 price tag, if soil at the park is found to be contaminated, as has been the case at other city parks. It’s unclear how much that would cost to remediate, though the city has already set aside some federal grant money to help pay for it.

“The city has found contamination when making improvements to other parks, so it has set aside a contingency to be prepared for the possibility,” said Tom Devine, a staff planner for the city. “It is unknown whether there is any contamination underground at the park.”

At the council meeting, Councilor Todd Siegel suggested testing the site for contamination before committing to paying for the project. Council President Robert McCarthy responded that if tests were done, the city would be obligated to clean up any contamination it finds, regardless of whether it decides to go forward with park improvements.

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