The Chestertown Council voted 4-0 Monday to move forward on a final grant application of $200,000 to build a playground at Wilmer Park — as recommended by the town’s recreation committee.
“I have received personally about two dozen very strong favorable comments about the plan for Wilmer and about the plan for AJAX [basketball court] and I personally support that,” said Ward 1 Councilman David Foster, who served as acting mayor on Monday while Mayor Chris Cerino was on vacation.
The vote most likely secures Wilmer Park as the final location for a playground even if the grant application is denied by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Community Parks & Playgrounds Program. The vote also likely secures the future restoration of the AJAX basketball court to a full-court. The 50-year-old AJAX was reduced to half court in recent years to make more green space.
The location of the playground at Wilmer was met with some concerns from Charles Lerner, a resident who lives on the boundary of Wilmer Park, about the large footprint and the aesthetics of the equipment the town proposed in its grant application to DNR.
He said the equipment being proposed is “1950s horrible” and that the company mentioned in the grant offered better, more natural options.
“That will be right at my door,” Lerner said. “I have a deck, as do my neighbors, that faces the park.”
“I don’t like it in Wilmer Park, everything in the park is natural and it is a place where people can have solitude,” he said. “It has been kept by the town to be pristine.”
“I think you could find, If you’re actually going to do it, which I hope you don’t, that there is a better type of more naturalistic equipment that the recreation committee was thinking about several years ago,” he said.
He said the park already serves as a playground for many activities without the need for playground equipment.
Lerner suggested the old AJAX court is in an area that would least disturb residents; he suggested that the under-used town parking lot next to AJAX could serve as a place for a playground.
“It could be enlarged and accomplish both of the purposes (basketball court and playground) and it’s near the town,” he said.
Resident Rebecca Murphy, who expressed support for the playground at Wilmer and the restoration of AJAX, said the playground equipment laid out in the grant application was not set in stone. She said she worked on playground projects in Baltimore and found that grant making organizations usually allow a period of time to make design changes after the initial concept proposal.
Resident Frank Rhodes said he was grateful that the recreation committee chose Wilmer Park for the playground.
“It’s the obvious place because everyone uses that park and the park is very very large,” he said. He said a playground would complement the town’s new marina and be yet another attraction for tourists and recreational boaters calling on the town.
He said he became very upset when it was proposed to replace the AJAX court with a playground. He said many generations of residents played at AJAX.
“It has a lot of value to those folks,” he said. “I know that they would like to see the court restored and I know they’d like to come back for some reunions to play on that court.”
Rhodes said he hoped the town could begin the restoration of AJAX by next year.
In other business, Arlene Lee, Co-Chair of the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice will submit a permit request for a Black Lives Matter mural that would run on High Street between Cross and Water Streets.
Lee said she would submit drawings and specifications to the town this week for discussion at the August 3 council meeting.