Volunteer-built Fort McHenry to be refurbished

McHENRY – The city of McHenry is moving ahead with plans to renovate one of its busiest playgrounds.

Twenty years after Fort McHenry was built by volunteers, its wooden structure is reaching the end of its useful life, Deputy City Administrator Bill Hobson told the McHenry City Council in a memo.

The council unanimously approved going out to bid on the renovation of the Whispering Oaks playground at its meeting Monday evening.

The project is expected to cost about $220,000 and will be paid for using the parks developer donations fund, a collection of development fees charged to residential developers for park improvements.

"The idea is to update it but keep the same look and feel to it," Hobson said, adding, "We want to keep the integrity as true as it was when it was built 20 years ago. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into it."

Much of the wood deck, handrails and balusters will be replaced with a composite that resembles wood but will last longer and require less maintenance, according to Hobson and past council documents.

The playground equipment will also be updated to meet current standards, Hobson said. For example, some of the slides that have metal on them will be replaced with all plastic slides.

"Wherever there is a slide there will still be a slide," he said.

The designs were put together by Leathers and Associates, the firm that was hired when Fort McHenry was first built in 1994.

The city had originally planned to renovate the park last summer, but Leathers and Associates wasn't available to oversee the construction until late October, Hobson said.

The work is expected to take four to five weeks depending on the weather, wrapping up around mid-June, he said.

A contractor will likely be picked at the March 17 meeting.

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