By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — Those who have visited the town’s public playgrounds recently would surely notice that the play structures are simply worn out from the ravages of time and inattention.
Hampered by broken infant swings and lacking in compliance with modern accessibility requirements, the playgrounds at Glen Meadow and Jordan Park, and to a lesser extent, Newhall Park, are simply not that inviting to the parents of young children.
Well, all that is about to change if the playground improvement initiative launched by a group of energetic young parents continues to gain traction in spearheading a private fundraising campaign.
The Lynnfield Moms Group (LMG), launched online just last May as a volunteer non-profit to provide resources, activities and support that enriches the lives of families with children ages 6 and under, already has 109 members.
Melissa Adams is a founding member and the group’s membership coordinator. She also serves as co-chair of its newly launched playground committee with LMG treasurer Erika Wilson.
LMG has partnered with Townscape, a venerable local non-profit that has sought to beautify the town by planting trees in public spaces for nearly three decades. Townscape is in the process of reinventing itself to expand its mission and appeal to the next generation of the town’s active citizens, so it is a natural marriage for the two groups to forge a mutually beneficial partnership.
The idea for this initiative germinated about 2 1/2 years ago, shortly after Adams moved to town with her husband and their two young children. Her daughter was not yet 2 years old and her son just 2 weeks old when she found herself driving around her adopted hometown on a summer day in search of a playground. She couldn’t find any. “They’re so hidden,” she recalled, that for those who move here and “don’t know people in town” they simply would not know where to look to find them.
Looking for resources, she Googled “moms groups” and learned that the town did not have any such groups either. Initially, she simply took her children to parks in other towns, such as Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield. Eventually, she found her way to the library and was given directions to Glen Meadow, Jordan and Newhall parks. What she discovered could be summed up in one word: Disappointment.
“They’re not in the best of shape, especially the infant swings, which were falling apart,” Adams recalled, explaining that she felt it was “not safe to put your children in them and it was just very disappointing. So one of the first things we talked about when we started the Lynnfield Moms Group last summer was getting these playgrounds in better shape. Obviously we all feel the same way that the town we live in should have playgrounds for our children, especially with the population of new families in town.”
Focus on Glen Meadow
The LMG immediately created a variety of subcommittees and Adams was excited to team up with Wilson to get the conversation started on their playground initiative.
“We’re in the very early stages. We’ve had a few meetings with Selectman Phil Crawford and Arthur Bourque, who is the president of Townscape, working with us,” she said.
Adams said she and Wilson recently reviewed plans on the current layout of Glen Meadow Park, located off Trickett Road, with Crawford. “Glen Meadow is really going to be our focus. We would like for that to be the main attraction in town. It has the most space for us to work with. We will be able to save playground spaces for older children as well as toddlers,” she said.
“Our plan is to take out all of the existing equipment and replace it with newer equipment. Erika and I have been looking at creating a treehouse theme. We’ve picked out some structures and we are in the very beginning stages of planning out the space of what will fit there,” Adams said. “We have a lot of ideas. But we’re still in the very beginning stages and it obviously depends a lot on what we’re able to raise.”
More park space would be gained by removing the picnic shelter and possibly working in the area where an existing basketball court and tennis court are located. Glen Meadow also has an existing Little League field, which would remain untouched.
Plans for Jordan Park
Simultaneously, Adams said they plan to work on improvements at Jordan Park, which has a much smaller playground area. She said they’ve learned from those in charge of Jordan Park’s youth soccer fields that plans are in the works to redesign that site as early as this spring and summer. Upgrades include redesigning the parking layout and the removal of the playground structure.
“It looks like with the right amount of fundraising we could get Jordan Park done before Glen Meadow,” Adams said. “Glen Meadow is going to be a huge project.”
Adams said they’ve put Newhall Park on the back burner for now because it is “probably in the best shape out of the three as far as playground structures, besides needing a few new swings, which we will replace as soon as we have the money to do that.”
Hamilton’s Patton Park as model
Adams said they’ve also contacted members of Hamilton’s moms group who privately raised funds to improve Patton Park in that community.
“They have an amazing playground. The mom’s group in town raised all the money to fund the playground and it’s top of the line. We’ve spoken to them about how they did their fundraising and we’re hoping to piggy back off a lot of what they did.”
For instance, the Hamilton moms group held small cocktail parties in their homes every couple of months, giving a small presentation about the playground and their improvement plans, which Adams said helped them raise “a good amount of money.” They also held a large gala with a silent auction and sought out sponsorships from the business community. “Banks donated money. They had different sponsorship levels and plaques with the names of the sponsors,” she said.
Optimistic about support
Though it will be a lot of work, Adams is very optimistic that LMG will eventually meet their goal of helping to create safe and enjoyable playground environments for everyone in Lynnfield to enjoy.
“The number of people who have reached out to us who want to get on board with this project has been really great, so I’m hopeful that once we do start fundraising that people really support us and want to get behind the project,” Adams said.
To learn more about LMG, which has an annual family membership fee of $20, visit www.lynnfieldmoms.com or www.facebook.com/lynnfieldmomsgroup. Adams can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Wilson can be contacted at email@example.com.