Tot lot fix-up gets final tweaks

December 4, 2009
By

John Ruch

Web Exclusive

PONDSIDE—The plan for the $275,000 facelift for the Brewers-Burroughs Street tot lot is finished, and the city’s Parks Department is accepting input on aesthetic details with an eye on work starting in April.

The biggest changes will include: new playground equipment; a partly rubberized, colorful play surface; a decorative metal strip on the streetfront fence; and the replacement of all evergreen trees with new maples and a flowering tree.

The heavily used, 8,000-square-foot playground for young children has not been renovated since 1993. It is showing wear-and-tear, and does not meet modern safety and disabled-accessibility codes, according to the Parks Department.

The new design was presented at the last of three community meetings, held Nov. 18 at Curtis Hall, with several local mothers and abutters in attendance.

The plan, drawn up by Waterfield Design Group, does not change the basic layout of the tot lot. It will retain some of its unique features, including the two tree planters that double as sandboxes.

The tot lot is known for its large number of communal toys brought there and shared by parents. It appears that tradition will be allowed to continue, but neighbors asked for more effort in cleaning up abandoned toys, and the new design includes more built-in play equipment.

The removal of the evergreens that line the tot lot’s border was a point of concern for the meeting attendees. The Parks Department pledged that the replacement trees will be mature and about 16 feet tall.

The metal fence along the Brewer Street sidewalk will retain the decorative animal cut-outs that run along the top. But the spaces between the bars do not meet current safety code, because they are big enough for toddlers to stick their heads through and get stuck. A sheet of metal, also with decorative cut-outs of some kind, will be welded across the bars to block the spaces.

Other new features will include: infant/toddler-only swings; a relocated site for the see-saw; a message board for parents’ flyers; new benches and tables; a scattering of artificial boulders; stone pavers in part of the sandbox planters; and new trash cans, possibly including a recycling container as part of a new citywide initiative that is being studied.

The main playground set will be replaced by a new model. Elsewhere, there will be an outline of a house painted on the ground so kids can play inside it with their own toys. Other built-in equipment will include fake storefronts, play tables and a “magic house,” which JP residents over 10 years old would most likely call a miniature playhouse.

One previously proposed feature was cut from the final plan: a water-play device. A majority of moms decided that would be too messy. Instead, there will be a new drinking fountain.

Meeting attendees expressed concern that the playground equipment shown by Waterfield looked too “cookie-cutter.” Waterfield’s Chris Scypinski said that, while prefab equipment is a must, there are dozens of designs available.

Parks Department project manager Cathy Baker-Eclipse is soliciting input on the playground equipment design and other aesthetic details, such as the color of the rubberized surface and the pattern for the new piece of fencing.

Much of the discussion has been done through the local JPMoms group and its e-mail list at BigTent.com/groups/JPMoms. But Baker-Eclipse will provide design materials to other residents, and take input from them. She can be reached at 961-3058 or cathy.baker-eclipse@cityofboston.gov.

Weather permitting, construction will begin in mid-April. Baker-Eclipse said it should take about three months to complete.