Quiet little Neperan Park has gotten a face-lift and the results have been a hit with children of all ages. The upper portion of the park, left wild until recently, has become home for a new playground unlike anything seen before in Westchester County − a natural playground. Instead of clearing an area and putting up a play structure, a natural playground (sometimes referred to as an ecological park) uses the existing landscape and environment to create a sustainable, aesthetically appealing play space full of unique play and learning opportunities.
“It’s a new concept,” says Village Administrator Michael Blau. “The Board [of Trustees] thought that we have a number of [conventional] playgrounds throughout the Village so let’s give the kids something different to play on.” Gina DeCaprio Vercesi of Kids Unplugged − an organization dedicated to getting kids outdoors − is a fan of the new playground because she feels it offers kids a great chance for imaginative, creative play. “There’s this log structure [in the park],” she says, “but it was not just a balancing structure. There were kids sitting on it just chatting. There were kids hanging off of it. There were kids riding on it like a horse, there were kids saying it was ship. It wasn’t just a balance beam.”
The first phase of construction has been completed, and the site now includes the aforementioned log structure, a slide, a rock scramble, an observation deck, and paths through the surrounding woods. Future additions would include more paths, a tree climber, hay barrels, landscaping, and numerous other natural spaces on which to climb and play but, for now, all construction has ended. Though building a natural playground isn’t any more expensive than building a conventional playground (the initial prep costs more, but the actual construction costs less), the Village has already spent about $21,000 on the park, $15,000 of which came from grant money specifically targeted for Neperan Park. To complete the master plan will require an additional $60,000 and, to that end, a private organization will be formed in the coming months with the hopes of raising the additional funds.
“[Neperan Park] is done for now,” says Blau. “If [a private group] can’t generate the funds, then the Board [of Trustees] must decide if they want to put in money in a long-term capital budget for doing this. In the short term, you’re not going to see anything because this upcoming budget year’s going to be a tough budget year and doing more playground work − it’s not going to happen.”
So it’s up to the residents of the community to fund any additional improvements both at Neperan Park and at other parks throughout the Village. DeCaprio Vercesi, for one, feels that Tarrytown’s parks deserve to be maintained and improved. “The parks are such a focal point of our community,” she says, “and all our parks need attention.”