Fresno City Council member Clint Olivier promised Monday to rebuild the playground at southeast Fresno’s Romain Park, which burned down Sunday afternoon in a possible arson.
Romain Park “is surrounded by a lot of neighborhoods that aren’t exactly safe for children to play in,” Olivier said, “and it makes me so angry that someone would take away something so beloved by the children in this area.”
The Fresno Fire Department determined the fire was man-made, but investigators have not yet figured out whether it was an arson or an accident.
Olivier said the park, located within his district near First Street and Belmont Avenue, has been a major focus of the city’s effort to improve Fresno’s precious park space, which ranks at the bottom by area compared with other large cities throughout the country.
“We’ve dumped $850,000 into this park in the last three or four years,” he said. Construction is underway for a new skate park on the grounds. Only the playground was damaged in the fire.
The playground cost the city $100,000 when it was first erected three or four years ago, Olivier said. It will cost just as much to replace it, and the city manager’s office has already contacted the playground equipment’s manufacturer to order a new set.
$100,000How much damage was done after a fire torched the Romain Park playground.
It will take between 60 and 90 days, depending on the manufacturer, to get a new playground, Olivier said. He added that final approval of the replacement purchase will have to go before the council because the cost will exceed $50,000.
Olivier said the money will come out of the city’s $300 million general fund, from which all parks and recreation costs are paid.
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin has drawn the ire of community groups in the last year over a lack of safe park space in Fresno – particularly in southeast Fresno, where Romain is located, and the city’s southwest. Swearengin responded by setting aside $5.8 million in the city’s $1.2 billion 2015 budget for parks, and she added an additional $450,000 in June at the behest of City Council member Esmeralda Soria.
Olivier said he, like Soria, was in favor of adding between $500,000 and $1 million in additional parks and recreation spending to the budget. The $450,000 was a compromise – Soria originally asked for $1.5 million.
That extra money, Olivier said, would come in handy now.
“We take a step forward to take two steps back,” Olivier said. “Now, we’ll have to take (the money) from someplace else.”