C5: Playground Promises Kept?

Special Report

Broken metal, cracked plastic, exposed nails.

Those were just a few of the problems the Contact 5 Investigators discovered at area playgrounds in 2012.

At Hand Park in Belle Glade last summer the Contact 5 Investigators spotted children playing around splintered plywood and rusted metal.  Those were minor issues compared to the cracked slide and exposed 10 inch nails sticking out of a burnt tiki hut.  One log was found in the middle of the playground with a nail sticking out of it.

Belle Glade City Commissioner Larry Underwood made a promise the day he was shown the problems.

"I'll make you a promise, the next time you come out and see this, you won't know this park."

One year later the Contact 5 Investigators returned, tracking if promises made on the playground were promises kept.

Contact 5 Investigators:   "What do you say to those viewers who will see this and say quite, frankly, nothing has really been done here?"

"I can't say that because we have done some things," explained Belle Glade Parks & Recreation Director, J.D. Patrick who met us at the playground this summer.

"Well, a year ago the tiki hut was burned down and it has been replaced," he said.

As for that cracked slide, it's now sealed up but that splintered plywood is still…splintered.

"That will have to be replaced.  We replace that yearly.  Because of the rain, wood will welt up," Patrick explained.

The city's grand plans to renovate Hand Park within the year came to an unexpected halt. Turns out the grant they told us they were awarded, actually went to someone else.

"Like anything else when you apply for grants, it's just hoping that you get it," said Patrick.

In Riviera Beach missing parts had taken the fun out of the playground at Monroe Heights long before the Contact 5 Investigators showed up.

Last summer, we found the playground at Monroe Heights to be scarce, with little working equipment.  The only rocker was missing a handle, the swing set was missing its swings and a step climber was missing steps.

One year later, things look different.

"The jungle gyms, the swings.  They just took it down but they didn't replace anything," said neighbor Jacquelyne Andrews.

It's not the view Andrews was hoping for.

"It looks like a caged prison," said Andrews

Up the street near Cunningham Park, the feeling is much the same.

"We are forgotten. We've been forgotten for a long time," said Bridget Hessler whose grandchildren live near the park.

The old, torn up equipment was finally removed from this park last summer.

This summer, the only change is a sign that reads, "Coming Soon Park Renovations."  To neighbors, it's a sign of things to come but have yet to arrive.

"Signs would go up, coming soon.  I haven't seen soon yet," explained Rosa Smith who's lived in the area for at least 10 years.

Contact 5:  "When we spoke one year ago you said the park would be complete by spring 2013, and here we are July 2013 and the dirt hasn't even been lifted?"

"We did run into some snags," explained John Williams, Riviera Beach Parks and Recreation Director.

He said plans to renovate Cunningham Park stopped when the city realized part of it belongs to the school district.

"We have to get the school board to either grandfather this in to us, lease it to us, or sell it to us," said Williams.

While the two hash out those details, children have taken to swinging from the trees at Cunningham Park and anything else they can wrap their arms around.

"They find things to swing on, like gates just to find something to play, it's, it's awful," said neighbor Patricia Adderly.

"We're 50% there, that park should be up and running probably, I want to say, February 2014," said Williams.

Plans for Cunningham Park include a new playground, basketball courts and a water feature.  The February 2014 grand opening is subject to change barring any unforeseen events.

No word on when new playground systems will be installed at Monroe Heights or Lone Pine Park which is another playground in Riviera Beach scheduled for a redo.

Hand Park in Belle Glade will remain as it is until the city finds the money for a facelift.

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