The renovation of Manderach Memorial Playground has drawn criticism from a few of the 2,000 residents who helped create it 11 years ago to memorialize a mother and her young daughter who were murdered.
Limerick Township recently spent $150,000 to replace three of the playground’s four wooden play structures with UV-resistant, molded resin equipment in a two-phase project.
Officials said they want to improve the site, which is part of Limerick Community Park at Swamp Pike and Ziegler Road, by making the playground safer and less expensive to maintain.
The main tower structure will remain as is, stressed Karen Hegedus, the township’s parks and recreation director. And one of the original wood play structures has been made into a memory house for visitors to learn about the playground’s story, she said.
The story will reveal how 2,000 residents came together and spent two years raising more than $250,000 to make the Manderach Memorial Playground a reality; it was dedicated Sept. 12, 1998, to memorialize Lisa and Devon Manderach, who were murdered Sept. 10, 1995, while shopping in a Collegeville clothing store.
Despite the benefits of an overhaul, not everyone believes it’s necessary or a wise use of money.
“The original equipment was supposed to last at least 20 years,” said Ginger Childs, a local resident who spearheaded the community effort to build the playground. “It’s very disheartening.”
Volunteers spent nearly two years raising more than $250,000 to fund and organize the equipment for the playground, she said.
Arrangements had been made with Graterford Prison for inmates to annually coat the wood equipment with a material that would have eventually turned it into plastic, she added.
“But it was like the township didn’t want to be bothered with it,” she said. “This was a heartfelt effort. Why couldn’t you take what was there and just bring it up to today’s standards? Now the township is spending unnecessary money.”
According to Township Manager Dan Kerr, it’s not that simple.
Kerr said he empathizes with Childs and the other volunteers who worked hard and put in long hours to make the playground a reality.
“Many people are benefiting from their efforts,” he said.
The overhaul was needed to make the playground safer and to reduce the cost of its upkeep, he said, adding safety standards are much stricter than they were 10 years ago.
Maintaining the wood is very expensive, Kerr said, explaining it’s a dynamic material that moves, shrinks, cracks and does a lot more than the composite material it has been replaced with.
“Since I’ve been here, I believe we’ve paid twice to have the equipment power-washed and sealed, which cost about $20,000 each time,” Kerr said.
“From an insurance standpoint, the overhaul has a lot more to do with passing the insurance inspection that occurs annually,” he said. “We’ve always passed, but we’ve had to do a lot of work.”
The cost of the playground’s insurance premium has risen dramatically, he said, primarily because of lawsuits, one which involved a young girl who broke her arm at the playground.
“We recognize what went into their efforts, and we will never forget that either,” Kerr said. “Before we started this process we were very desirous of keeping the intent of the playground. The big castle, the focal point of that playground, is staying. We’re not changing that.
“The township is committed to maintaining that structure. But now we have whole new generation of play equipment that will be just as good as or better than what was placed in there originally,” he said.