Not your average jungle gym

Woodsdale Playground project breaks ground this fall

While visiting family last summer in New Hampshire, Rachel Collins stopped at a local playground located behind a small school to allow her children to play. 

She took notice of a Gaga Ball pit, a wooden octagon pit used to play a gentler version of dodge ball, and recognized the need for a new, updated playground at Abington’s Woodsdale Elementary School.

Later, during a Woodsdale School PTO meeting, Collins inquired if anyone had heard of Gaga Ball and discussed ideas to build a pit for the 300 students at Woodsdale. Currently, third and fourth grade students play on a largely undeveloped open space during recess, as well as before and after school. Two large banks of outdated swings, a black top area, and some picnic tables serve as their sole options. 

Abington’s Beaver Brook Elementary School has a large play structure behind the school, as well as a large wooden playground behind Memorial Field, giving students and parents options plenty of play options.

“I noticed how significantly different the playgrounds were, and other parents agreed. There was nothing to do after school (at Woodsdale) and no one was meeting there on the weekends. It wasn’t a destination,” said Collins, who is also a member of the Abington Parks & Recreation Commission.

After much discussion and sharing of ideas, a plan began unfolding to bring a new playground to the school by the start of 2020-2021 school year.

Eager to enhance the space, bring new life and energy to the school grounds, as well as offer a community gathering spot, Collins approached Woodsdale Principal Jonathan Hawes with the idea.

“I sent a long email to Mr. Hawes explaining I wanted to make this happen. ‘I want to help you, what can I do’,” Collins recalled.

Hawes was strongly supportive of the plan from the start and agreed to help.

After researching grants for funding, Collins and the PTO learned that funding would be possible through the Community Preservation Act. The application was buoyed by the fact that the Planning Board’s Open Space Plan had already identified the Woodsdale Playground as a potential recreational destination for the growing, surrounding neighborhood.

According to the Town of Abington’s Community Preservation Act website page, “Recreation CPA funds may be expended on ‘…the acquisition, creation, and preservation of land for recreation use….and for rehabilitation or restoration of…land for recreational use…that is acquired or created’ under the CPA.”

“We did look at grants but it’s such a long, hard process and this had to be quick,” explained Collins.

Hawes, working closely with Collins and members of the PTO, applied for a $100,000 Community Preservation Act grant, which the committee supported.

At Abington’s Annual Town Meeting on June 22nd, residents voted unanimously in favor of the funding.

“Our estimated cost for the project will be $125,000. We’ve already funded over $100,000 and the project’s initial phase is set to begin the week of September 7th. Our point person, Tim Pesko, from Childscapes, has been great to work with and has really helped us with planning,” said Hawes.

Construction of the new playground will be set in phases.

“The first phase of the project will see surfacing and a large portion of the equipment installed,” said Hawes.

“The second phase will coincide with a sponsor-a-brick fundraiser in hopes that we can raise the necessary funds for our final piece of equipment, a large climbing structure that is set to be the kids’ favorite part for sure!”

“The CPA funds will fund a majority of the playground. The estimate is coming in a little bit less than we had thought we were going to have to fundraise for,” added Collins.

The playground project team is currently seeking community donations to help supplement funding for the design and construction.

“Later portions of the playground upgrade will include additional standalone pieces and a resurfacing of the blacktop,” added Hawes.

The enhanced playground will enable users to navigate around others, problem solve, as well as take part in exercise that supports large muscle tactile movement.

“For these kids it’s just so important.  Even more so now when they are actually going to be outside,” said Collins.

“We’re excited for the kids to have new options to play with at recess or a place for kids to hang out after school and play.”

For more information, visit Woodsdale Playground Project on Facebook. Check donations can be made payable to: Woodsdale PTO, 120 Chestnut Street, Abington, MA 02351 noting “Woodsdale Playground Project”. The PTO is also accepting donations through Venmo at @Woodsdale-PTO.

(Written by Michele Christian) 

[DISCLAIMER: Rachel Collins is the spouse of Abington News co-founder and editor Rick Collins]