I have great memories of playing on the playground at the old All Saints Catholic School parking lot. I grew up just next store, so it was literally just a hop, skip and a jump for my sister, me and our neighborhood friends to get there.
It was old school: A giant aluminum structure featuring swings that you could take so high it seemed as our feet were touching the sky. Then there was the merry-go-round, a massive swirling circle divided into colorful sections, each resembling a slice of pizza. One or more of us would push while the others sat or laid down, holding tightly onto the rusted silver bars. Sometimes the operators would run in circles until we were dizzy. Other times we would space out and stand still, grabbing onto a bar and pushing it with all our might. The monkey bars were high, and they were always a challenge. We had plenty of hand blisters to prove it.
Playgrounds have changed, now featuring creative – and I’m sure safer – options. There are slides and tube slides, bridges and climbing equipment, classic swings, baby swings, tire swings and even specialty swings.
I recently caught up with Parks and Recreation Director Joe Shuttleworth to chat about the city’s many playground locations and why it’s so important to the city to provide them to its residents and visitors.
“We are such an active community,” he said. “A lot of times, when you have resources, somethings the parks and recreation gets overlooked or given a backseat and I think at least in Bridgeport, it’s always been equal footing as far as recreation and parks is considered, along with city services and amenities. We’ve always tried to go a good job maintaining, updating, and keeping up with trends and community wants and needs. We’re very blessed in this area with that mindset which allows us to continue to upgrade – all the way up to the $40 million building we’re about ready to open.”
Joe was referring to The Bridge Indoor Sports Complex, slated to open late-May and located adjacent from Bridgeport Recreation Complex baseball facility and soccer fields. The area also features a walking trail and one of the city’s many playgrounds.
Playground facilities are also located at Compton Park, White Oaks, Deegan Lake, Briarwood, lower Worthington Drive Alligator Park and two brand new structures at City Park. The replacement of those playgrounds is part of a restoration effort launched a few years back.
“We replaced the old one at Deegan Lake and at Briarwood, then the latest replacement was the two at City Park,” Joes said. “They were roughly 20-22 years old and showing their age. Technology changes, safety features change so we decided it was time. The city has an escrow program for putting money away for these projects and we worked through a vendors’ grant program so we basically replaced both playgrounds with money we had budgeted for one, so it was a great deal for the city.”
Additional drainage was added for the larger playground which sets in a flood plain. That will help substantially to protect the equipment when waters rise. That facility, intended for kids roughly 5 through 12, includes a net climbing area, a current popular playground trend. The swings on that playground include a special needs swing, a project of Bridgeport Lions Club.
The smaller playground at City Park, located near the softball field, is designed more for children age 2-5.
The City takes pride and prioritizes its playground facilities and following a year when restrictions hindered the use of those facilities, it is a welcome site to see so many children and families out utilizing them.
“I think it all goes back to the community and that quality of life issue,” Joe said. “When you have good schools and good recreation, you attract families.”
Blog written by Julie Perine
Pictured from top:
Compton Park, two playgrounds at Bridgeport City Park, White Oaks Park, Deegan Lake Park (two photos) and “selfie swing” at Compton Park.