This Playground Needs Work
ASHBURNHAM -- The Parks and Recreation Committee voted on Wednesday to close the Winchester Park playground after concluding the play structures are no longer safe and pose a risk to visitors.
No date has been set for the closing, but committee member Cheryl Goller says it will be too dangerous to keep the playground open for much longer.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” said Goller, on the committee’s unofficial Facebook Page. “Our main priority has always been and will always be providing a safe environment for our community and visitors to enjoy.”
Some structures, she said, are “way past” their time, and that shows.
“This is not about lack of maintaining, it’s about the life expectancy of the materials,” said Goller.
Several residents expressed concern over the closing of the playground.
“This is crazy! The town has the responsibility to maintain its assets,” Heidi Bercovici wrote in a comment on the Facebook page. “We spend countless afternoons there. We need to preserve this for the next and the next and the next little ones.”
Laurel Micklus said she was happy the committee was reacting to the safety concerns, but asked why the committee didn’t go public with the concerns earlier.
Goller said the committee has tried to get additional funding for the parks, but their priority now is to look forward and to finding a solution.
She said the committee is still researching ways to keep the playground area open.
“We hear your concerns,” she said. “We are listening.”
She said the committee is in the process of applying for a PARC grant, which would award up to $100,000 for a project to fix the playground. The PARC Grant Program is a state program that provides reimbursement to towns to acquire land for parks, develop new parks and improve existing ones.
To make use of the grant, the committee would need Town Meeting approval. Committee members encourage voters to support any article related to the playground.
Resident Amanda Davidson has offered to establish a nonprofit organization, Friends of Ashburnham Parks and Recreation, to raise money for the project.
“This is huge,” said Goller. “This opens doors for major fundraising that our committee legally can’t do.”
There will be a Parks and Recreation meeting on Monday, and members will be discussing the playground and funding options.