Projects at three parks estimated at $18 million over two years

Several New Castle County parks could see an upgrade over the next few years, if council approves the funding in the coming budget cycle.

At a recent special services committee meeting, Special Services Acting General Manager Wayne Merritt and architect Phil Conte gave a presentation regarding projects at Rockwood Park in Wilmington, Carousel Farm Park in Pike Creek, and the Hermitage/Glasgow Park in New Castle.

The total cost of all repairs and upgrades to their facilities and programs over 2015-16 is estimated at $18 million, according to Conte.

Conte said that in some cases, addressing the facility needs will allow the parks to expand their programs to the point that they create income, Conte said.

“The potential to generate revenue – which has not been calculated – is available,” Conte said.

Conte said that some of the proposed work s routine maintenance and some, as in the case of Glasgow Park, constitute a revamping of existing structures for reuse as a farmer’s market.

At Carousel Park, the facilities would expand to include an expanded petting zoo, an amphitheater, and an actual carousel, estimated to cost between $600,000 and $1.2 million brand new.

All three of those additions, Conte said, have the potential for revenue.

Merritt said that he believed all the expansion and upgrade programs would be fast tracked once the money in place.

“I don’t like ‘feel-good’ projects, especially at $4.5 million dollars,” said Councilman George Smiley, 7th District, referring to the upgrades at Glasgow Park.

At the Monday, March 17 Greater Hockessin Area Development Association meeting, Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick, 3rd District, said she thinks the project managers would receive a “rude awakening” when they start discussing the projects with the residents around Rockwood.

She also said she would personally have a hard time supporting the project due to its proposed price tag.

“That $18 million over the next two fiscal years, in an economy that’s not coming back, is way over the top,” she said.

New Castle County director of communications Antonio Prado said that when County Executive Tom Gordon returned to office in 2012, he was disappointed at how county parks had deteriorated.

Prado said that Gordon “recognizes that parks and recreation are probably areas where County taxpayers see their tax dollars at work most readily.”

“We cannot afford to allow our county facilities and infrastructure to deteriorate, lest we incur more expenses for the County in the future,” Gordon said. “As County Government, we must ensure our parks are venues for the community that provide quality recreation and entertainment.”

The county council is scheduled to begin capital budget hearings on Monday, March 31, at 3 p.m. at the Louis L. Redding Building, 800 N. French Street, Wilmington.