Community aims to tune up Bristol playground

BRISTOL — The Bristol town green is a favorite place for community activity, particularly during the summer months when it hosts the weekly farmers’ market, as well as various events and festivals.
Some Bristol residents are looking to improve what is already a popular gathering spot. A team of six community members, led by the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership (BDCP) and supported by the recreation department, are looking to renovate the playground on the west side of the green.
“We’re not trying to fix anything that’s broken, but rather build on a great town asset in a way to hopefully encourage more families to linger longer in Bristol,” said Bristol resident Jill Kopel, owner of New Leaf Farm and member of the BDCP board.
The playground currently features swings, a slide and a jungle gym, all of which are made from metal pipes.
“There’s a lot for the little guys to do, but not a lot of imaginative play space,” Kopel said. “It seemed like a good opportunity for the BDCP to spearhead a project that would improve (the space) for the whole community, and the rec department was excited to get involved since they had already been planning to do work on the green.”
The committee got feedback through the online messaging forum Front Porch Forum, so that Bristol residents could identify goals and priorities for the playground renovation project.
“We wanted to make sure the community supported the project and avoid any firehouse-type drama,” said Kopel, referring to the tension surrounding a proposed renovation to the Bristol firehouse on North Street earlier this year, which included aesthetic disagreements, among many other arguments.
Krista Siringo, another of the six citizens spearheading the project, plans to create a graph and report from the survey results and make it available to the community online. The committee is planning to start meeting with playground companies to begin planning stages now that the community has identified elements of the space that citizens would like to see included.
More than 100 survey respondents identified safety, durability and appearance as their top three priorities for the new playground. These respondents also favored a “natural” look to the new playground, and many also suggested replacing the current swing set with a safer and more attractive set.
Kopel said that favoring natural materials, like rock and unpainted wood, had another benefit.
“It’s a difficult economic time, but we are lucky and fortunate in this area to have people that can commit time and materials to community projects,” she said. “We think people would be more willing to do that than donate cash.”
Ultimately though, the committee’s priority is to make the Bristol town green the best place it can be.
“We want to build something that kids can be creative on and that people can contribute to,” Kopel said. 

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