Brewer St. tot lot to get fix-up

John Ruch

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PONDSIDE—The Brewer-Burroughs Street tot lot, one of Jamaica Plain’s favorite playgrounds, will get a $275,000 renovation next year that may include new play equipment and a water-play feature.

The 8,000-square-foot city playground has not been renovated since 1993. It is used by as many as 50 toddlers a day. Gazette readers have frequently voted it as the neighborhood’s top tot lot, including last year.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department on Sept. 16 held the first of three planning meetings on the renovation, which will be carried out in summer 2010.

Only four people attended the meeting at Curtis Hall—three abutters and one mom. Two more community meetings will be held in October and November.

“It’s great to see a park that’s used all day long every day,” said Cathy Baker-Eclipse, the Parks Department’s project manager, adding that the city doesn’t want to ruin a popular site.

But, Baker-Eclipse noted, safety codes have changed over 16 years. “It’s still really safe, but we’re updating what we’d like to build,” she said.

A notable example is the tot lot’s iron fence along Brewer Street. The spaces between the bars are too big.

“Children have gotten their heads caught in there,” said Dennis Dale of Waterfield Design Group, the landscape architects on the project. The fence will probably be patched up somehow while still preserving the unique cut-out animal shapes that run along the top rail.

The current play equipment is coming apart and does not meet current American With Disabilities Act standards, so it will have to be replaced. Waterfield may bring some of the design touches it has used on other playgrounds in Boston and Somerville, including stones with artificial fossils engraved on them and rubberized surfaces with creative patterns.

A gentle, tot-friendly water feature for hot weather is another possibility. The meeting presentation included an image of a water device shaped like a giant faucet that spills mildly flowing water.

Other proposals include creating a notice board inside the lot, which is now frequently posted with scattered flyers for community events, and trimming or removing some pine trees along the southwestern border.

One of the most notable features of the tot lot is the large amount of communal toys that parents leave in the park permanently. While the toys are a testament to the tot lot’s popularity, it turns out that many of them are broken and abandoned by parents when their kids outgrow the lot.

“When I’m in a grumpy mood, I feel like people are emptying their attic on my street and walking away,” said Dr. Bob Oldshue, a local pediatrician who lives across the street from the tot lot. He said he sometimes cleans up the discarded toys.

Dale suggested creating a toys policy that would be posted on a permanent sign in the park. He and Baker-Eclipse also suggested forming a friends group to clean up the park and advocate for it.

Other issues for neighbors of the tot lot are uncovered trash cans and older kids using the park late at night. New trash barrels and improved lighting could be part of the plans.

Homeless people’s use of the park has also been a concern, as it has in other local parks such as the South Street Mall, Baker-Eclipse said. She said the Parks Department is moving away from using covered, tube-shaped slides on playground equipment because homeless people sometimes sleep in them. Construction on a South Street Mall renovation project is set to begin next month, she told the Gazette, which will clear any type of visitors out of it for a while.

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