Montclair Community Pre-K
IMAGE COURTESY MONTCLAIR COMMUNITY PRE-K/LEARNING LANDSCAPES A rendering of the proposed new playground at the Montclair Community Pre-K.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair Community Pre-K expects to break ground on its new playground in June.

Pre-K officials met with the Historic Preservation Commission on April 25 and the planning board on May 2. A groundbreaking ceremony is to be scheduled at a later date, said Amy Dorr, the MCPK’s director.

At the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) meeting, Dorr was accompanied by board trustee David Placek. The Montclair Early Childhood Corporation operates the Montclair Community Pre-K, while the land belongs to the Board of Education.

The existing playground equipment at the Pre-K is 20 years old. While it is still in safe condition, it is nearing the end of its lifespan, Dorr and Placek told HPC members.

The Pre-K has applied to the planning board for permission to have grading and drainage work on the property ahead of the construction.

During periods of significant rainfall, the mulch covering on the ground gets washed away, Placek said.

The project was referred to the Historic Preservation Commission for its review because of the Pre-K’s location. The Pre-K is located in the center of Montclair, and the two buildings surrounding the playground – the BOE central office and the Pre-K building itself – are both known as “key buildings” in Montclair.

The goal is to completely overhaul the playground with new equipment, and add new landscaping and new activity stations. Dorr noted that the playground will have a “natural playground” theme, with an emphasis on playground equipment that incorporates wood, stone and other natural materials, with an emphasis on making the playground accessible to children with mobility issues.

The plan was initially just to replace the playground equipment. But the Pre-K discovered the drainage on the playground, Dorr said.

“And as we’ve seen in Edgemont and other parks in town…our safety surfacing washes away every time it rains because there’s no drainage,” Dorr said. By law, a minimum of 12 inches of wood chips is required to be on the ground beneath the playground equipment.

Placek said the playground will also have a five-foot wide figure-eight walkway.

Dorr and Placek said some old cypress trees on the property would be staying.

Members asked if there was a plan to replace the chain link fence.

“If someone wants to give us the money to do it, we’d be happy to do it,” Placek said.

Dorr noted that “Hopefully down the line it’s something we’ll do, but right now it’s safe,” Dorr said.

The district funded 10 percent of the playground overhaul, the rest was covered through the school’s fundraising efforts.