After a hit-and-run caused up to $150,000 in damage to the newly renovated Penny Playground in Chehalis, repairs are underway. Chehalis City Manager Jill Anderson said the city hopes the playground can open in early summer.
The work is taking longer than the public may expect, Anderson said, because the underground infrastructure of the swing set and other areas of the playground were damaged and need to be repaired.
“The damage above ground was one thing and that was obvious and it could’ve been a lot worse,” Anderson said on Friday morning. “Not only is there the actual equipment damage — it’s all of the underwork that’s needed to pull up the concrete and redo all of that.”
Anderson said the turf that was used at Penny Playground is specialized for fall protection for playing children and it needs to be replaced. After the vehicle drove through the playground, debris and shards of material were embedded in the turf.
“All of (the turf) needed to be special ordered. Whole, huge sections needed to be redone,” she said.
The city is hoping to be able to reopen the playground by early summer, Anderson said, but there are a lot of moving pieces in the effort to repair the playground.
The damage occurred when an unnamed driver drove through the fence and some playground equipment on Jan. 27. The vehicle was unattended when police arrived on the scene, as the driver allegedly fled on foot after the crash and went to another location.
The registered owner of the vehicle arrived at the scene and told police where they could likely find the driver, and when police arrived, they found a 23-year-old Chehalis man in need of medical attention. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and blood was drawn for toxicology tests. Criminal charges are pending the results of those toxicology tests, which the Chehalis Police Department states could take up to a couple of months to come back. Until charges are filed, law enforcement has stated that they will not release the name of the alleged driver.
At this point, it doesn’t appear that the city will be responsible for the repair costs.
“Our insurance authority that (the city) is a part of is handling it — they are probably going to go after the driver’s insurance,” Anderson said.
Next to Penny Playground, at Recreation Park, local leagues have been playing on the ball fields.
“The announcement that we are going into Phase 3 will open up things a little bit more for large competitions as we go forward,” Anderson said.
As far as other recreation opportunities in Chehalis, Anderson said that Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement, which moves the state into phase 3 on March 22, makes the city more hopeful that the Shaw Aquatics Center could open this year but it is still uncertain.