Ellendale prepares to reopen park with new playground equipment

ELLENDALE – For the Spudis family, the closure of the Ellendale Town Park meant more than the loss of a completely fended in play area.

They will soon be in luck, however, as the town plans to reopen the park after funding new equipment and improvements.

The smaller of two new sets of playground equipment is being prepared for use at the Ellendale Town Park. Special to The Chronicle

The smaller of two new sets of playground equipment is being prepared for use at the Ellendale Town Park. Special to The Chronicle

“When it was nice out, we went almost every day to do our schoolwork there which made homeschooling a lot easier. It gets the kids motivated to finish. They concentrate more knowing once they are done they can go right to the swing set and jungle gym,” Melyssa Spudis said.

But, she added, “The swing set is out dated and rusted up a little bit. That wooden swing set was falling apart. Thank God they tore it down.”

Because the playground equipment was wooden, Ellendale Mayor Norman “Jay” Jones, Jr. said it was easy for members of the Ellendale Town Council to fix problems as they arose.

“Sometimes it needed minor maintenance like fixing nails that were coming out and boards that needed to be replaced. The sliding boards were in rough shape and becoming a hazard,” he explained.

“But then we learned that there could be liability issues for the stuff we did. It just wasn’t in any shape for the kids to play on.”

Ellendale was given a $20,000 grant through DNREC’s Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Trails Program, formerly known as the Delaware Land & Water Conservation Trust Fund, to aid in purchasing new playground equipment.

“We had no idea how much the equipment would actually cost,” Mayor Jones said of what would become a $60,000 project.  “We thought, ‘Oh my gosh. We’re such a small town. We don’t have that kind of money.’ So we looked into grants.”

Playground equipment geared towards children 2-5 years of age will soon await families at the Ellendale Town Park. Special to The Chronicle

Playground equipment geared towards children 2-5 years of age will soon await families at the Ellendale Town Park. Special to The Chronicle

But grants weren’t easy to come by for the small town because it is a municipality, he said. Making the park a permanent space for recreation and outdoor use afforded the town the chance of receiving the DNREC grant.

Ellendale’s grant was just one of 14 to receive a combined total of $1.29 million in funding from the program.

“Parks and trails are an essential component of the fabric of our communities, contributing to our quality of life and our appreciation of the natural world,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

“Building new parks and trails or adding to those we have is a good investment both now and in the future. It means recreational opportunities and health benefits, and enhances the appeal of our communities as good places to live and raise our families, while making our state an even more attractive destination for visitors.”

For Ellendale, the DNREC grant was a matching grant which meant the town needed to raise half of the funds before getting the program funds. It took three years of fundraising, Mayor Jones said.

The new equipment itself cost $40,000. The town also plans to replace the gazebo, redo the sidewalk inside the park, add benches closer to the playground equipment and make sure everything is up to code and handicapped accessible.

Playground equipment geared towards children 2-5 years of age will soon await families at the Ellendale Town Park. Special to The Chronicle

Playground equipment geared towards children 2-5 years of age will soon await families at the Ellendale Town Park. Special to The Chronicle

“Even people out of town come to our park. It’s a draw to Ellendale. It’s a smaller, nice little park, but people drive to get here because it’s all fenced in,” he said. “It gets a ton of usage, especially in the picnic and pavilion areas.”

The town uses the park, too, for an annual back to school event, parades and other town-wide activities.

The Spudis family, and many others, will soon be able to play once more in what Mayor Jones calls “the outdoor hub of the town” as construction nears completion and new equipment arrives.

With four children of her own, and a husband who works 16-hour shifts, Ms. Spudis says, “that park will be our saving grace though for sure.”

News Editor Jennifer Antonik can be reached at jantonik@newszap.com or 302-422-1200.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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