Downtown playground plans swing forward
WESTPORT — A grassroots effort to build a downtown playground may come to fruition in the coming year.
Spearheaded by Westport Moms alongside the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, the initiative would see a new playground built in Bedford Square by the summer of 2020.
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Though there are other playgrounds like the one in Compo Beach, Randy Herbertson, president of Westport DMA, said a downtown playground could provide a central location in town for kids to play and draw families to other area amenities.
“Part of our overall thing is to get people to continue to come downtown, remember what’s here, and what a great experience it is with all the improvements we have been doing,” Herbertson said.
Additionally, Westport’s primary playground at Compo Beach is not as usable in the colder months, and many of the school playgrounds are unavailable during the school year. A downtown playground gives children could a place to play year-round.
“This reaches a constituent of families who have elementary and younger-age children that want another reason to get out,” he said. “Hopefully because they’re in close vicinity to downtown shops they’ll enjoy those too.”
Westport Moms co-founders Megan Rutstein and Melissa Post conceived the idea in 2018 while brainstorming ways to connect community and local businesses. Between the relocation of the Westport Weston Family YMCA in recent years and the temporary closure of the library, they noticed a gap for families with younger children.
“With the library closed last year, it was really hard to come up with reasons to take your kid to town because there wasn’t a lot there for them,” Rutstein said. “We felt if there was a playground it could help.”
The project will be designed by Kompan, a playground equipment supplier that also designed Saugatuck Elementary School’s playground, and will be ADA compliant and feature climbing and music features.
“It’s a playground where you can grow with it,” she said. “The goal is this is for everybody.”
A final price for the project is still being ironed out, but Herbertson said it could cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition to money being raised by the DMA, Westport Moms will run its second annual “Local Love” fundraiser from Dec. 7 to Dec. 15. Residents can have access to special offers and discounts to over 100 stores in town by purchasing a Local Love card for $40 at westportmoms.com/locallove.
A portion of the proceeds will go toward the project, and anyone who buys a card can choose to have their family name — or their child’s name — included on a plaque at the playground.
For the Westport Moms co-founders, this community-driven project represents another opportunity to bridge families and business owners in town.
“What we have done with Westport moms has always been about community and connecting people,” Post said. “Such a big part of that is having a vibrant town and having your local stores and restaurants know who you are.”