By Kate Barcellos
WEST RUTLAND — The best part about being a kid in West Rutland could soon be spending summer vacation at the new playground.
“It’s what the residents have asked for,” said Town Manager Mary Ann Goulette. “The fact that we have over 100 acres at the rec area that was very underutilized was what triggered the master plan in 2014.”
With the help of a $5,000 donation from General Electric and volunteers to help remove the old equipment and begin excavation in the park off Route 4’s Exit 6, the new West Rutland playground is being prepped for the installation of shiny new swings, slides and a small climbing wall in addition to other playground utilities.
“Our goal is create a safe, functional, visually appealing and accessible park that is cost-effective to build, operate and maintain,” Goulette said in a statement.
The total cost for the playground equipment is $30,412, and West Rutland is actively seeking volunteers to help put the new sets together on May 19 at 8 a.m., she said.
“The original playground was designed and built by an Eagle Scout many years ago,” Goulette said. “It’s definitely time for a facelift over there.”
Though the park has needed some TLC for quite a few years, a new access road had to be built before the town could pursue developing the 125-acre parcel into a center for community activity and family enjoyment.
“The biggest concern was the access into the area,” Goulette said in an interview. “The access point up on the hill was a very windy, steep embankment to get down to where the park is. We addressed the safety concerns first.”
Once the access road off Boardman Hill Road was established and a new playground for puppies fenced off, the town set its eyes on the aging infrastructure of the once-beloved playground and recreational building.
“The fact that the dog park has taken off and has become the most popular place in town means there’s great potential there,” Goulette said. “The sky is the limit on what we can do in that area.”
She said since the installation of the dog park, people have flocked from throughout the region — including crossing the border from New York — to use West Rutland’s blossoming recreational space.
“When you look over and see all the people who have come with their dogs, it makes you feel just great,” Goulette said.
After the park is finished, Goulette said the town will focus on restoring the old recreation building, creating hiking trails, building a storage shed and pavilion and establishing a recreation field.
Most of the park remains undeveloped and generally unused, so the Select Board appointed a recreation committee, hired a landscape designer and engineer, and consulted residents in public meetings and through surveys about how they thought the space off Exit 6 could best be put to use.
“These changes have been a long time coming,” Goulette said. “This year is definitely a recreation year for West Rutland.”