A Columbia village displaying tot-lot safety options


Owen Brown village has set up a display of seven safety options and a comment box for the Lake Elkhorn tot lot to get more community opinion on whether the playground should be fenced, village officials said.

"One of the big issues was that people did not know there were other options there," said Neil Dorsey, chairman of the Owen Brown Village Board, adding that residents have told him they knew of only two options - fencing the area or leaving it as it is. "This shows there are many more options than the two."

The safety options created by Columbia Association staff members - ranging from partial and full fencing options of the playground and the lake pier to design details such as gate materials - are on display at Owen Brown Community Center, 6800 Cradlerock Way.

Dorsey hopes that citizens will choose one option and explain the choice. Residents also can suggest other options. The presentation will be on display until Aug. 11, and an open discussion will be held at a later date. After the discussion, the village will present its findings to the Columbia Association board of directors.

Last month, the board shifted responsibility for the design of the playground to the Owen Brown Village Board, after months of grappling with whether to fence the playground from which a 23-month- old boy wandered and drowned in the lake in September.

After the drowning, a group of parents lobbied the association board to fence the playground. The board approved a fence or barrier, disregarding a consultant's report that said the playground was safe. In June, the board did not approve a fencing option that would have enclosed the playground and followed with a unanimous decision to close and remove the playground. The board rescinded the closure-and-removal decision after community members complained and shifted discussions about the playground to Owen Brown village.

Because the playground is on Columbia Association property, the village board has no authority over it, but the village board will make a recommendation to the association board. The Owen Brown architectural committee has the authority to approve or disapprove Columbia Association design plans.

"The goal ... is to have a way for the community to give their input," Dorsey said. "Let's just work together with this and see what comes out. What happened has happened, and now let's move on in a positive way."


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