A consultant hired by Monterey says the popular train engine at Dennis the Menace Park could "potentially remain a vital part" of the park if the city takes several steps.
But a return to days of old — when kids climbed and clambered over the 10-ton locomotive, which has been a landmark piece of park equipment since the 1950s — isn't endorsed by the new report.
The report by MIG Inc. outlines a number of steps the city could take to keep Engine 1285 in the park.
The city last year put a temporary fence around the locomotive because of increased safety and liability concerns about children getting hurt on it. The train engine doesn't meet state playground equipment safety standards.
But a move to make the fence permanent touched off a community backlash in which a "Save the Train" page on Facebook received thousands of likes.
In September, the City Council decided to hire a consultant to see what could be done to balance the community's desire for access to the engine with the identified hazards of using the locomotive as play equipment.
The nine-page report discusses issues of access for disabled people, changing the old train engine to a historical exhibit rather than play equipment, and safety issues.
The train poses "many opportunities for injury," based on current state playground equipment rules, from head and neck entrapment to dangerous falls to the sand below, the report says.
The report outlines options and recommendations that include:
· Installing a "transfer system" to allow children in wheelchairs to access the train engine compartment.
· If the train is deemed a historical display, access ramps could be built to specific parts of it.
· A fence should be built to prevent access to much of the train.
Some modifications could be made to eliminate safety hazards, but the report says mechanical structures, even at ground level, "are intricate, massive and fascinating."
· Climbing on the train is not recommended, but other hands-on play opportunities to renew "the experience of the steam train days" are available.
They include installing a train station ticket booth next to the train, a hand cart or other modified train equipment for use by children.
A subcommittee made up of City Council members Libby Downey and Frank Sollecito, parks commissioners, Save the Train representatives and city staff members will review the report later this month and then make recommendations to the City Council.
Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or email@example.com.