New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper


Splash Park Reservations

Residents who live on the East Side of the city say they feel like they are being left in the dark about Mayor Timothy O’Brien’s plans to make improvements at Chesley Park and reopen the pool there.

The pools there have been closed for several years due to vandalism and costly repairs that at one time totaled $85,000, according to Julie Swan, a Linden Street resident and the chairwoman of East Side NRZ, a community group that formed in 1996.

The park has two pools, one for adults and older children, along with a smaller wading pool. East side residents say they aren’t opposed to the improvements, but say they feel left out by city officials of the mayor’s plans.

“I haven’t seen any plans, we have requested them, but haven’t received anything,” Swan said. “I’m not opposed to the pool opening at all or even the splash park. What I would have liked to seen is a meeting with (the city and) the NRZ, to come on over on our side of the town and talk about what they want to put there.”

O’Brien has proposed bonding $4 million to bring the pools at Chesley and Washington parks back into use. He also wants to make football and other athletic field improvements at Chesley, moves he say are essential to ensuring healthy lifestyles and productive outlets for area youth.

“Parks and Recreation services play a critical role in providing a good quality of life in our neighborhoods,” O’Brien said in recent remarks. “Our parks and public spaces and recreation services provide individuals and families places to enjoy. And, for children in an urban setting, they are vital.”

Phil Sherwood, the mayor’s spokesperson, said the plan is to renovate one of the pools and create a splash pad. He said the process is “underway” but some specifics have yet to be finalized.

“Our biggest concern is that once before we had issues in the past with kids loitering and vandalism,” Swan said, noting instances of skateboarders damaging the pools, along with debris—and even a car—being tossed in.

At the beginning of former Mayor Timothy Stewart’s first term, the group asked for additional police to be placed along the park. A substation was put in and Swan says vandalism appears to have decreased.

Parking is another concern with cars often parked on both sides of Wildwood Street now that a football group plays there.

“When you park on both sides of the street it makes it very hard for people who live on those streets to get through the middle. Sometimes you have to back up to let another person go,” Swan said, adding that she also has concerns about how much larger emergency vehicles might not be able to pass.

The proposal to rehabilitate the pool first appeared in the fall of 2012. O’Brien said at the time that initial estimates for making improvements to the pools could be “very pricey” and said that park officials were recommending splash pads as a more cost effective option.

When residents first learned of the plans, they encouraged their neighbors to call the mayor’s office. Residents inquired about police, the scale of the project, and how parking would be addressed.

“They were very easy questions that could have been answered at a meeting,” Swan said. “I would have thought they would have had a public hearing. I’m not sure why there wasn’t a public hearing.”

Brook Street resident Tony Cane, the coordinator for the East Side NRZ, said he has asked representatives from the Park and Recreation Department to come speak about the project, but has not received a response. He said he also emailed the mayor’s office 10 months ago, but “hasn’t heard anything.”

He said he has concerns about how the project will impact safety and parking, along with how it’s going to be paid. “We want more information on it before we make any decisions,” he said.

Alderman Wilfredo Pabon said the cost to renovate the pool will be around $1 million. He said he intends to vote against bonding money for the project.

“No, because we don’t have any money for it,” Pabon said. “He’s doing this just to get votes.”