Brodeur plan would make park spaces inclusive, equitable, age-friendly

Jun 10, 2021 by

Published June 11, 2021

MELROSE — On Wednesday night, June 9, the City Council’s Appropriations Committee was scheduled to discuss an order advancing equity and access to recreation in Melrose by making a substantial investment in parks and infrastructure.

Mayor Paul Brodeur’s #MelrosePlays Initiative includes provisions for three projects: an inclusive playground, critical improvements to the girls’ softball field on Lebanon Street, and a designated pickle-ball court.

Several community members sat down with Mayor Brodeur to discuss the need for these investments on the most recent episode of “The Brodeur Bulletin.”

Joan Bell, Superintendent of Mount Hood and Open Spaces, spoke about the need for an inclusive playground in Melrose. An inclusive playground is a universally-designed, sensory-rich environment which goes beyond minimal accessibility and creates a space where children and adults of all abilities can play together.

“Every park has a little bit of something accessible, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one park that had a lot of everything in it, that’s truly inclusive for everyone with or without disabilities,” said Bell.

Ann Plumer, Melrose resident and parent to a child with Down syndrome and autism, said that it’s not only good for her son to be able to run and play in a safe place with his friends, but it’s also good for his peers.

“It’s one destination where whether you have a disability or not, people can learn from each other, and it’s a great way to learn without having to feel like you’re learning something,” said Plumer.

Mayor Brodeur hopes to build the inclusive playground with significant community input, and create a space that residents could access locally, rather than traveling to places such as Charlestown or Watertown for such amenities.

“The aim is to create an accessible space that’s attractive to users of all ages and abilities,” said Mayor Brodeur. “When you look at what other communities have done it’s really incredible and this would be such an asset to the City, and frankly our surrounding communities.”

If the City Council votes to approve the order, #MelrosePlays will also make major improvements to the softball field on Lebanon St., advancing equity in girls’ sports.

Bell reports that the field currently suffers from drainage issues and limited spectator visibility. The Parks Department is working with the Engineering Division of DPW to find the best way to elevate the only space designated for the exclusive use of girls’ softball to the same standard as the facilities for boys’ sports such as the Lewis Monk Memorial Field.

“Success breeds success, and that equity piece really matters,” Mayor Brodeur said. “There’s a certain pride of place when they see the town is investing in their sport.”

The Mayor’s #MelrosePlays initiative also strives to enhance recreation for Melrose’s older population with a designated pickle-ball court.

Pickle-ball is a paddle sport combining elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and in recent years has gained tremendous popularity among older athletes. While pickle-ball is soaring in popularity among older adults, it is easy to learn and is accessible to players of all ages.

Melrose, unlike in surrounding communities, has no designated pickle-ball court, and enthusiasts like Carol McCollough play at Foss Park on the basketball court, which many say is a subpar venue.

“I never played a sport in my life, I never did an exercise in my life, but I love pickle-ball,” said McCollough who plays the sport up to six times a week, and has been a fierce proponent of getting a designated court in Melrose.

“It definitely brings the generations together,” said Mary Kamitian, another pickle-ball proponent. “I’m 59 and I play with people who are in their 80s, and let me tell you, they give me a run for my money.”

Stacey Minchello, Executive Director of the Melrose Council on Aging, stated that this investment would be a game-changer for older adults in Melrose.

“It’s so important for our public spaces to be age-friendly, and this initiative is a step in the right direction,” said Minchello.

The City Council appropriations committee will vote on Order 2021-133 on Wednesday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m. via remote meeting.

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