WEST NEWBURY — With summer officially underway, the young and the young-at-heart are invited to the grand opening of Page Elementary’s new playground next week.
Work on the recreational structure behind the school continues with Director of Public Works Wayne Amaral predicting the work will be complete by the end of this week. A public ribbon cutting at the venue is scheduled for July 12 at 5 p.m.
In the spring of 2020, voters at a special town hall approved the use of $462,857 in Community Preservation Act money to build a handicap-accessible play structure and address drainage issues in the school playground.
Voters at the outdoor meeting debated the motion for half an hour. The finance committee was split on the plan, and some voters called the request a “huge expense” and an “absurd” amount of money to be taken out of the Community Preservation Act account.
They suggested fundraising, seeking grants and – in light of the pandemic – seeing what lies ahead for falling schools first.
But the majority backed the expense, saying it’s important that all children have a safe and inspiring place to play. A state grant of $20,000 received in 2019 was also applied to the project.
Parent Tricia Sabulis – whose daughter uses a wheelchair – began leading the effort in 2019, but pandemic issues have affected progress.
“My daughter loves the playground even though her wheelchair can’t even roll across the surface without being pulled back and on two wheels – imagine how much she wishes she could actually play,” Sabulis said during the presentation of the idea to city officials. over two years ago.
“The primary community goal for this project was to create an inclusive playground that welcomes all types of users,” Amaral said last week.
As part of the design process, the playground committee received hundreds of concept drawings and ideas from Page students in grades K-6.
Young people were asked to respond to the sentence: “At Page’s playground, I would like to see…”.
Some of the 300 responses included ‘swings that aren’t broken’, ‘rock wall’, ‘huge cargo net’ and monkey bars in three sizes. Many students have requested that ramps be installed for wheelchairs and crutches so that all children can play together during recess.
The school’s old playground, built in the late 1990s, had broken equipment and was hampered by seasonal flooding and water accumulation, which rendered it unusable for three to four months a year. The city building inspector said the playground did not comply with the Federal Persons with Disabilities Act and the woodchip base was “not up to current standards.”
Since Amaral usually focuses on responsibilities such as road construction and maintenance, drainage infrastructure, felling and mowing of trees, he admits that he enjoyed being involved in a project that, he knows, will bring fun and excitement to the community.
“We look forward to seeing this playground become a gathering place for families and friends to play for many years to come,” Amaral said Friday.
A small grass play area in front of the school is not handicap accessible and should also be addressed by the city at some point.