March 28, 2023

PLAINFIELD — The town is envisioning a $2 million phased upgrade to a popular municipal park that calls for the addition of several new recreational amenities including ball courts, permanent bathrooms and a splashpad.
The proposed burnishing of Lions Park would be paid for with a combination of state grant and municipal funding with work taking place in phased segments over a five-year period, First Selectman Kevin Cunningham said on Wednesday.
“We already have a lot of recreational activities in town and this would be a way to offer the community more,” he said.
The Board of Selectmen on Monday approved the submission of a state Small Town Economic Assistance Program, or STEAP, grant for up to $480,000 for the first phase of the project with the town ready to kick in $121,000 in matching funds.
Jordan Lumpkins, the town’s grant writer, said the STEAP application was the first the town has submitted in years.
“This is a highly competitive grant, but because we have matching funds it makes it more attractive to the state,” he said. “It shows the town and community are willing to fund these kinds of projects and that’s something the state wants to see when they review the applications.”
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The first phase of work includes the building of a new “miracle playground” structure to replace the existing 20-year-old version at the Community Avenue park. Recreation Department Director Mark Simmons said the new one would be handicap accessible with various entry ramps and soft surfaces to allow kids with physical disabilities access to slides and other play components.
Phase I would also add a dedicated fitness court with pull-up and dip bars, lunge steps and other work-out stations – all of which can be tied to an exercise phone app with “hundreds or thousands” of training tips.
“This would be only the second court like this in Connecticut,” Simmons said. “We have a lot of adults in town who already work out at home and this is something we think would be attractive to them.”
A pair of side-by-side basketball courts would replace the existing single court; the volleyball court would be expanded and upgraded to professional-play levels; and a permanent bathroom will take the place of a portable bathroom and be built to handle the addition of a shaded pavilion extension.
Simmons said he hopes to introduce basketball and volleyball league play once the refurbishments are complete.
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Cunningham said the town’s share of the project funding was approved during the most recent budget cycle and received federal American Rescue Act Plan money will cover Phase II work, including a wheelchair path and the addition of 16 solar-powered light poles slated to ring the park’s walking track.
“Those lights will help with safety concerns and allow people who attend evening concerts to see better,” Cunningham said. “And in the winter, when it gets dark before the park closes, it will allow people to enjoy the place with lights on.”
An $825,000 proposed grant-funded third phase, tentatively slated for 2024-25, would introduce a water splashpad – similar to one at Dayville’s Owen Bell Park – a large free-standing band stand and a complimentary covered pavilion on the southern end of the park.
Simmons said a recent survey asking residents what they’d like to see at the park overwhelmingly saw a splashpad as a popular choice.
Lumpkins said he expects to hear the fate of the town’s application by mid-September. If the money is approved, Phase I work will begin in the spring and be complete in time for use by summer 2023, Cunningham said.
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Simmons and Cunningham noted having robust recreational options makes Plainfield an attractive prospect for residents and companies contemplating moving into town.
“It’s about quality of life,” Simmons said.
John Penney can be reached at or at (860) 857-6965.


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