The committee charged with reimagining the Beaver Brook Playground says the 30-year-old wooden structure could be torn down as soon as this fall, with a new structure being built in the spring.
During a public information session Tuesday night, Beaver Brook Playground Committee member Jannette Leary detailed some of the problems with the existing, sprawling wooden structure, including protruding nails, rotting wood, cracked slides, tire features half-buried in mulch, and unsafe or missing swings. She described the playground as having “fallen into grave disrepair” and beyond capable of being fixed.
The information session was lightly attended, but those who spoke were unanimous that they want the replacement playground to retain the uniqueness of the current structure, and include natural colors and features that reflects the site’s location under a tree grove and next to a river.
Kaitlin Carroll said the current playground’s maze of tunnels, bridges, and towers inspires kids’ creativity and helps them find new playmates; something that might not happen as much with a collection of swings and slides.
“One thing I like about the Beaver Brook Playground compared to every other playground on the South Shore is that the Beaver Brook is the only playground kids will stay and play for hours, because they can use their imagination, make friends,” she said.
The Marshfield Kids At Play Playground was held up as a possible example of a unique structure.
A number of new playgrounds across the region, such as Braintree and Bridgewater, are located in open, treeless spaces largely unprotected from the summer sun. Those in attendance said that’s not what they want.
“What makes the Beaver Brook Playground so wonderful is the shade. Not many playgrounds have shade,” said Amanda Zompetti.
She said the sample structures contained in composite drawings that were on display were in full sun and looked “very uncomfortable.”
Leary said the committee had met with Abington Department of Public Works Director John Stone and the town’s tree removal contractor and determined that most of the 60-foot-tall pine and oak trees on the site would be able to stay. Only the trees with shallow root systems that may pop up through a new playground would be removed.
“Not only will there be shade canopies over certain pieces, but we’ll also have the natural canopy,” she said.
Leary said the committee is nearing a decision on a final design but didn’t anticipate holding any future public input sessions.
Committee members said the new playground will be ADA compliant. Melissa Pond, a member of the Board of Health, suggested working with the Institute for Human Centered Design to ensure it meets accessibility needs.
Town Meeting has approved about $250,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the project.
The property’s unusual ownership arrangement makes next steps unclear. The playground sits on an 8.5-acre parcel of land that runs from the American Legion Louis V. Dorsey Post 112 building on Washington Street all the way back to the Shumatuscacant River, and also includes the high school varsity and junior varsity baseball fields. A group called the Abington Town Veterans Memorial is listed on town assessor records as having obtained the land from the town back in 1922 for $3,500. However, the town apparently maintains the land under an old arrangement. The Town of Abington owns the abutting Frolio School land, which also runs back to the river, and includes the high school football field and other youth baseball and softball fields.
It is not clear what approvals will be needed for the committee to officially move ahead with demolishing and rebuilding the playground. The project will need at least Conservation Commission review due to its proximity to the river. Leary said the playground area will be moved about 15 feet away from the river to create a bigger boundary.