Barnegat Residents: Parks in Disrepair, a Lawsuit Waiting to Happen
Barnegat Township resident Doreen Carone wishes she could take her two young children to local parks, but due to what she said was a dangerous state of disrepair, she and her husband, Jason Elliott, have no choice but to take them to other communities. The two Schooner Avenue residents said Project Playground, which opened 10 years ago, is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
“You’ve got broken equipment and areas not maintained,” said Carone during the public portion of the Oct. 4 township committee meeting. “There’s garbage strewn all over. You have beer bottles, broken bottles and cigarette butts. This was a problem over a year ago, and nothing has yet happened. It’s terrible that I can’t bring them to Barnegat, so we go to Manahawkin, Lacey or LBI.”
She said mulch, which is spread out to cushion a child’s fall, is missing in many spots. Carone said statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 45 percent of playground injuries to children are broken limbs or internal injuries.
“I’m worried that a child is going to get seriously injured, and then you will be liable,” she said. “Our taxes are going to have to go toward a lawsuit settlement if there is an injury.”
Elliott said protective coating over metal steps had worn away and the “township’s response was to spray paint over it.”
“It left metal jagged pieces still exposed,” he said. “You have a serious liability issue ,and you’ll have to eventually replace the playground and pay for what the lawsuit costs.”
Elliott said smaller neighborhood pocket parks also need an overhaul.
“One time I saw some public works guys by one of the parks and I asked them about the broken equipment, but they were oblivious to it,” he said.
“Nobody uses them anymore because they, too, are in terrible shape,” added Carone.
Committeewoman Susan McCabe, who serves as liaison to the recreation department, said public works is restructuring its staff to free more employees for focusing on parks and playgrounds.
“We are instructing public works to create subcategories, and one will be playground and recreation areas,” said McCabe. “They will be responsible for weekly maintenance of these playgrounds and parks to give them the attention they deserve.”
Deputy Mayor Albert Bille said Project Playground will soon be undergoing a makeover with new steel equipment installed in place of deteriorated pieces.
However, Committeeman Frank Caputo expressed doubt anything would get done unless “we get to the core of the problem,” which he said is security.
“You can talk about fixing this and fixing that, but unless you have security cameras identifying what is going on, you’ll get nowhere,” he said. “Police can go out and patrol, but kids can just hide until police leave the area. For years I’ve sat in the audience hearing the same stories over and over again. We spend good money trying to provide nice things, but if you don’t take the necessary protective measures, the problems are going to continue.”
“You can’t say the committee has provided nice things because the parks are in terrible shape, and they have been that way for years,” said Carone.
— Eric Englund