The Millville Town Council voted this week to open its new town park on March 1, after the COVID-19 pandemic and construction delays has kept the long-awaited park closed to the public.
The council voted 4-1 to open the park, but to keep its community building closed to the public until pandemic-related capacity and safety concerns are no longer an issue. Council Member Peter Michel was the sole “no” vote.
Evans Park at Millville, as the park is to be known, has been years in the making, and town officials had hoped to be able to open it last fall — particularly for hosting the town’s annual Great Pumpkin Festival.
Although Gov. John Carney has not yet moved the state to Phase 3 of its coronavirus response — which was the original goal for opening the park — the council listed safety precautions that will be in place at the park. They include regular cleaning of the play equipment and the Challenge Course. Restrooms at the park will remain closed for the time being, as will the community building.
Town Manager Deborah Botchie said the March 1 date is dependent on two things: the completion of pickleball courts and the weather. Construction of the pickleball courts was delayed when fiber optic cables, put in for the park’s security cameras, were cut during the installation of the courts.
Millville officials lauded the opening of the park in the coming weeks.
“Children need to get out,” said Town Council Secretary Barbara Ryer, adding that children in her development “keep talking about that big playground.”
“I don’t know why we didn’t open this up a long time ago,” Mayor Steve Maneri said.
While the state, and the nation, continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be signs posted in the park with a “play at your own risk” message and listing safety guidelines.
Although the park will officially open March 1, there will be no official opening ceremony until the community building can be opened to the public.
The Town purchased the 5-acre parcel on Dukes Drive from the Evans family for $800,000. In addition to the pickleball courts, and the Challenge Course, it features play equipment designed with a nautical theme and divided into areas for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as one for older children.