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Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Plans for the Big Move

The board discussed the department's move to Parker Memorial School at last night's meeting.

From renovations to reconstruction and new projects, the recreation department is working to create a new and improved set of facilities to serve Tolland residents. At its Monday night meeting, members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board prepared for these big changes, many coming this summer.

At the top of the list is the to the previously vacated Parker Memorial School. According to Recreation & Adult Education Director Tom Ainsworth, workers have been painting, tiling and knocking down walls to help the building accommodate the department’s needs.

The workers are currently preparing for the department’s summer camp program, which will be held primarily in the former school’s gymnasium. Workers have also knocked down the wall between two other classrooms to create a large space for exercise and fitness programs.

“It’s a nice space,” Ainsworth said. “It’ll give us a lot more room for daytime activities.”

The Town Council has proposed using $30,000 to fund the school’s renovation. Another $25,000 will be taken from the $50,000 that AT&T paid the town for allowing the company to run cables underground on the high school property. Those funds will be used to pay for the Parker Memorial School’s utilities during the first year, according to Ainsworth. However, the Town Council must approve the use of those funds at a , and send the resolutions for approval to the Board of Education later this month.

Although the summer camp will be using the school when the program begins on July 5, the Recreation & Adult Education office will not likely move until August.

If Tolland children need to fill their schedule this summer, there is still plenty of room for campers, Ainsworth said. While the camp can hold a maximum of 130 children, participant numbers are down from last year, with around 40-50 campers signed up currently.

The seven-week camp will have more activities than ever this summer. Campers will be able to use Parker Memorial facilities for arts and crafts and to cool off from the heat. The children will also be taking trips to Crandall Park to use the baseball fields, pond, and volleyball and tennis courts.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” Ainsworth said.

As the department focuses on its new facilities, its previous facility, the pavilion at Crandall Park, has still not been rebuilt. The structure’s roof caved in this winter from the weight of excessive snow. According to the Town Manager’s report, the town is still waiting for a construction timeline.

In these tough economic times, the pavilion’s construction delay is an unfortunate loss for the Recreation & Adult Education Department, officials have said.

“We’re losing some money,” Ainsworth said. He estimated that the department would have received $3,000-$4,000 in rental fees this season. In past years, the pavilion has been booked almost every weekend.

The department is also pursuing construction of a concession stand at Cross Farms Recreation Area. The Town Council will be to approve a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant, which could provide $100,000 to $500,000 in building funds. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approved a resolution supporting the grant last night.

“There’s no guarantee that we’ll get it,” Ainsworth said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

The concession stand would provide restrooms, food, water fountains and storage for residents enjoying Cross Farms. At the moment, only three portable toilets are available for use.

Residents who are looking to have more input with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board have an opportunity to serve. A vacancy for a volunteer position has opened on the board. Interested residents can call the Recreation & Adult Education office at 860-871- 3610 for more information.

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