People banned from Lippitt fountain because of danger, parks chief says

Parks Superintendent Wendy Nilsson explains the danger of the Henry Bowen Anthony fountain while crews chief Joseph Wojtanowski, right, SNA President Ethan Gyles, left, and residents listen.

Parks Superintendent Wendy Nilsson explains the danger of the Henry Bowen Anthony fountain while crew chief Joseph Wojtanowski, right, SNA President Ethan Gyles, left, and residents listen.

City Parks Department Superintendent Wendy Nilsson says she strongly reminded residents that the fountain in Lippitt Park is strictly off limits because of the danger of playing in it.

“Parents were putting their kids into the water” and ignoring warnings by workers that they had just “shocked” the fountain with a toxic chemical – chlorine – to clean it, she said. In addition, the structure is made of granite, which is extremely slippery when wet, she added.

Nilsson spoke to about a dozen residents June 13 at a public forum at Summit Commons sponsored by SNA. The meeting was called because of a storm of discussion on social media sparked by Nilsson’s request that SNA disseminate her warning about people being banned from getting into the fountain. Comments ranged from preserving the integrity of the historic Henry Bowen Anthony fountain at all costs to tearing it out and replacing it with a splash feature.

The parks superintendent and her crew chief, Joseph Wojtanowski, explained that fountains in parks city wide accumulated all kinds of natural and human waste – including soiled diapers – and had to be cleaned every few days. He said the Lippitt fountain was monitored by park personnel but asked for park users to alert his department if they noticed anything wrong. The chemicals used dissipate in a few hours, Wojtanowski said, but the fountain is not designed for people and is still not safe to climb into.

Nilsson said the cost of installing a splash feature in the park would be about $250,000 and there is no budget for that, especially since there are water facilities in the Billy Taylor park just a few minutes away. She said residents near other parks had been innovative in using inflatable kiddie pools to “get kids wet” during hot days.

She said her department is developing an online tool that describes the features of all the city’s parks and is working on redesigning them using more natural materials while maintaining safety. The resource is available at https://pvdgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Shortlist/index.html… and a parks locator is available at http://demo4.geotg.net/providenceparks/ParkLocator/.

One resident at the meeting asked Nilsson for a redesign of the signs explaining why the Lippitt fountain is dangerous and she responded that she would work on that and asked for citizen input. She stressed that the Parks Department welcomes interaction with the neighborhood because “we want to do parks that are meaningful to the community, not for the ease of the Parks Department.”

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