City parks and recreation officials will take another crack at outfitting Westover Park with updated playground equipment after some features installed earlier this year fell short of expectations of parents with younger children.

This past spring, city officials unveiled $165,000 in new playground equipment at Westover Park, replacing items that were more than 17 years old.

"The previous equipment was installed in 2001, making it the oldest equipment in our system," said Steve Cothrel, Upper Arlington parks and forestry supervisor.

He said an inspection of Westover's old playground features last fall revealed rust and plastic and rubberized surfaces that were cracking.

As part of the design process, the city held a public meeting to share plans for the new playground equipment and took comments online.

Since its installation in the spring, city officials have received a significant amount of positive feedback, according to Jeff Anderson, planning and development manager for Upper Arlington parks.

However, Anderson said, "several residents" expressed concerns that the new playground doesn't provide appropriately challenging play options for children between the ages of 2 and 5.

"Many of the children in this age group enjoy using the primary playground structure, which had been designed for a wide range of children, from ages 2 to 12," Anderson stated in a Sept. 16 staff report to Upper Arlington City Council. "However, while the new equipment serves to provide challenging play experiences for older children, it creates a gap for younger children."

In response, city officials plan to replace some of the new equipment.

Parks and recreation officials from the city will be host to a neighborhood meeting from 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 14 at Westover Park to share details of plans for the project redo.

In the meantime, council voted 6-1 on Sept. 23 to approve a $55,000 contract with New Albany-based Midstates Recreation, the company that designed and installed the upgrades last spring, to redesign portions of the playground.

The new equipment is expected to be in place by spring 2020.

"We are anticipating that the ground-level toddler features will be replaced with a small composite playground structure designed for ages 2 to 5," Anderson said. "The roof, play panels and some other features from the existing ground-level feature could be reused.

"However, our primary focus will be on addressing the needs of residents. We are planning on having a meeting on site. ... We are planning on presenting a couple of designs at that meeting that can then be revised based on input that we receive."

Anderson said if additional public feedback is needed, the city will schedule addition opportunities for residents to comment after the Oct. 14 meeting.

"It will be important for us to work with residents to make sure that they are comfortable with the final design," he said. "So the schedule will be largely driven by this process."

The lone opponent to replacing some of the new equipment was council member Jim Lynch, who said he'd visited the park and spoken to parents whose children use the playground.

"What I gathered was there's nothing profoundly wrong in the eyes of the families," Lynch said. "It's a brand-new playground, built at no small expense. My sense is, we should give it some more time and experience before considering additional resources, investments."

Although the new playground is less than a year old, other council members said the city needs to be responsive to the safety and access concerns residents had raised.

"We want to listen to our residents and the majority said we need to do something different," council member Sue Ralph said.

"I think we need to meet the needs of the children and the safety of the children."

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