WESTBROOK – When the 2012-2013 school year began in Westbrook last week, children from Prides Corner Elementary School, which closed, had to move on to other facilities.

But now, it looks like one popular part of the Prides Corner School is making the move along with the students. The City Council has given a first-reading vote to move the playground equipment to a spot near Congin Elementary School and the Fred C. Wescott Building, and is expected to give it final approval at an upcoming council meeting.

“It’s worth it,” said Maria Dorn, director of the Westbrook Community Center, which will share use of the playground with Congin. “It’s a nice piece of equipment.”

Dorn noted that when the school closed, the building – and its playground – officially became city property. Right now, city officials are seeking proposals from real estate brokers for selling the school, but keeping the playground made sense.

For one thing, according to Janet Crawford, the former principal at Prides Corner and now Congin School principal, the playground represents a significant financial investment. Built in 2007, Crawford said, the structure was two years in the making, starting with concerned parents asking her how to replace an aging wooden structure that was loaded with splinters.

Just to get the first half built, Crawford said, took thousands of dollars in fundraising, both through events and soliciting funds from private donors.

“It takes a lot of bake sales to raise a playground,” Crawford said.

Even so, with the first half done, it took a $50,000 donation from the Cornelia Warren Foundation to finish the playground, Crawford said.

“It was a big project,” she said. “A lot bigger than I thought it would be.”

The relocation, by contrast, would be much cheaper. The city is planning to hire O’Brien and Sons, of Medfield, Mass., the company that originally installed the playground at Prides Corner, to do the work. It is estimated to cost just less than $12,000, which the city will pay for out of its capital improvement fund for playground equipment. The fund, according to city officials, is used to maintain city playground equipment such as what is found in the middle of Riverbank Park.

The other benefit, Dorn said, is that the relocated playground is geared toward children up to Grade 2. That’s important, she said, because now Congin Elementary has children that age playing there, and children coming to the community center are all ages. The existing playground at Congin, she said, is for older kids.

“When (younger kids) play on this playground over here, they get hurt,” she said.

Crawford said she is excited about the move, which will allow everyone, ages K-5, to have something to play on safely.

“It’s a tremendous boost, because now the young ones can play on one side, and the older kids can play on the other side,” she said.

Wesley Douglass, who helped organize efforts to build the playground at Prides Corner, said he is unhappy to see the playground being moved out of an area of town that doesn’t have much for kids to play on as it is.

“I’m a little disappointed that they’re potentially losing a play structure that’s in Ward 5,” he said.

But Douglass also said he can understand the city’s motive for moving it.

“Certainly, I see the point that it will get more use,” he said.

Crawford said she hopes, once the project is approved, to see the work finished in about a month.

Toys and swings are unused now at the playground at the closed Prides Corner Elementary School.
The playground equipment at the now-closed Prides Corner Elementary School is getting little use, but that would change if it’s moved to a spot near Congin Elementary School and the Fred C. Wescott Building, a proposal the City Council is likely to approve. The playground opened in 2007 after a lengthy fundraising drive.     
The playground equipment at the now-closed Prides Corner Elementary School is getting little use, but that would change if it’s moved to a spot near Congin Elementary School and the Fred C. Wescott Building, a proposal the City Council is likely to approve. The playground opened in 2007 after a lengthy fundraising drive.    


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