Medford Township announced the reopening of Fort Medford in Bob Meyer Park on the last day in June, following improvements in the playground area that had kept the park closed for about a month.
The park, which was funded and constructed in 1995 through a community “design and build” that took five days to put together, has seen renovations over the years in an effort to keep the playground structure intact.
The recent improvements entailed a complete restoration, according to township officials, made possible through $250,000 allocated from the municipal capital budget. An additional $100,000 was applied for and received through the Burlington County Municipal Park Development Grant program.
The upgrades were completed in two parts, according to Open Space Coordinator and Zoning Board official Beth Portocalis, with a substantial amount of work finished last spring. It took another four weeks to complete the work in June.
The improvements were completed following an assessment by Leather & Associates in 2018, the original firm that helped design and construct the park nearly three decades before.
“[Medford Township] got back in contact with Leather & Associates and had them do a review of the entire park to see what aspects of it needed to be addressed,” Portocalis explained. “Some components didn’t meet the safety requirements for what is required now, and there was a lot of concern about the wood, since they’d been standing for 25 years or so.”
Back in 2010, township council allocated $175,000 – in conjunction with the Fort Medford playground committee – to build a 100-percent, handicap-accessible addition to the playground, the first one in Burlington County.
Following the recent renovations, Portocalis said, more work is scheduled for next spring, with cosmetic improvements such as painting the newer wood components so they match.
“It’s a true community, public-private partnership to save that playground,” Portocalis noted. “We know of quite a few towns that have torn theirs down in recent years, so we are probably one of the few left in South Jersey, let alone Burlington County.”
The wood-style playground is a standing relic for an entire generation of adults in South Jersey. Portocalis said the township’s ability to save the structure is a testament to the dedication and work ethic of both township staff and residents.
“To me, it’s part of what makes Medford great,” she added. “I’d never experienced a community build of a park of that scope and size before this took place, but now I’ve seen it happen again and again over the years.”