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Yet another delay in Bear Creek playground

Completion of the new Bear Creek Park playground in Medford continues to run into challenges in getting delivery of the final pieces of equipment, forcing another postponement to the expected completion of the $600,000-plus structure.

The work originally was expected to be concluded with a ribbon cutting this past weekend, but a warehouse fire in Georgia put some features of the replacement structure on hold. Volunteers were told the equipment would arrive this week and that a final push to finish the work would occur Friday and Saturday.

But Parks and Recreation Director Rich Rosenthal said in a press release that the city learned today that there’s been another delay in getting the equipment.

“... we learned that the parts supplier in Georgia has not yet completed Medford’s order, even though they had previously confirmed an Oct. 18 shipment date,” Rosenthal said in the release.

“This is certainly an aggravating and frustrating development,” he added.

Volunteers who were gearing up for the final work parties have been asked to put their energies on hold for the time being. Rosenthal said work parties would be scheduled again once the city receives “physical confirmation of parts shipment and a transit timeframe.”

The playground project manager is Leathers & Associates, based in Ithaca, New York. The company says on its website that it has directed the work on more than 3,400 playgrounds since its founding in 1971. The former Bear Creek Park playground, which was removed to make way for the new structure, was also a Leathers project.

Like that predecessor, which was erected on the site in the late 1980s, the playground structure was built with input from local children working with architects from Leathers. The job is being funded by grants, individual and organization donations and in-kind donations of materials and labor from the community. Funds are still being raised to sponsor specific play components or personalized fence planks.

In addition to the design work, Leathers oversees the equipment orders and provides staff at the site to direct the volunteers. Nearly 1,100 community volunteers worked on the current project during the initial community build phase of the project from Sept. 29 to Oct. 6 and Rosenthal said last week the majority of the volunteer team captains agreed almost immediately to rally for a final weekend’s worth of work.

Rosenthal said last week that a fire at a manufacturing plant in Georgia had initially caused delays for several pieces of the project, including several plastic molded slides, a liberty swing for playground visitors in wheelchairs and a “spider bouncer.”

An obviously frustrated Rosenthal said the city did not learn of the latest delay until this morning and up till then thought this week’s work was still a go.

“It sounds like Leathers was misled,” he said.

The delay has not stopped work on the installation of 4,600 rubber tiles that will cover 18,000 square feet of playground area, he noted, with that work about 40 percent completed. The structure itself covers 14,000 square feet.

Volunteers who previously worked on the project will be contacted and local media notified when the work will resume. New volunteers can get checked in now and get their names on the list by contacting Michael Mace at the parks department by phone at 541-774-2695 or by email at Michael.Mace@cityofmedford.org.

“As soon as the parts show up, we’re going to get this installed,” Rosenthal said, “whether it’s in November or whether it’s in December.”

He said once the equipment shows up, “it’s possible” the work could be completed in one day, or definitely in less than two days.

Even prior to the latest delay, Rosenthal said last week the project had been a “monumental challenge” for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s been very exciting, and it’s come with some frustration, like any large project, Rosenthal said. “We’ll all be just as ready for it to open as everyone else.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Mail Tribune file photoVolunteers have completed most of a new play structure at Bear Creek Park, but now must wait for delayed equipment to arrive.