First Public Meeting: Fallon Field Renovations

The first public meeting to discuss the upcoming renovations to Fallon Field was held on January 7. This was our first chance to meet with key members of the project team and get an overview of the design process and construction timeline.

Fallon Field Renovation Names to Know

The playground will be designed by Spurr Design Studios, a branch of Weston & Sampson. Our contacts at the Parks Department are:

Renovation Timeline

Additional community meetings will be held on

  • February 3 – present alternatives for park design for discussion
  • March 3 – present final design for discussion and clarification

Construction will begin in Late Summer/Early Fall 2015, most likely sometime around Labor Day.

Summary of the January 7 Meeting

Comments from Parks Commissioner Chris Cook

We were pleased to have Commissioner Cook join us for the duration of our meeting. The commissioner opened the meeting by thanking the community for its advocacy, noting that since he became commissioner he has received more mail about Roslindale playgrounds than any other topic except dogs. He acknowledged Roslindale’s “deficit of play value” and discussed the various steps that the city is taking to attempt to address that deficit. In particular, he:

  • emphasized that we have Mayor Walsh’s attention and that it was the mayor’s decision to accelerate the renovation process at Fallon Field.
  • indicated that improvements to the playground at Healy Field may appear in the budget as soon as next year. He noted that the Healy playground is undersized, particularly given the densely populated area that it serves, and that it has the potential to be “larger and more robust.”
  • hinted at actions the city may be able to take to address overall lack of play space in Roslindale, but noted that creating new parks is a slow process and that many sites that become available are problematic in various ways.

Presentation: Spurr Design Studios

The presentation from Spurr Design Studios began with a series of slides showing the existing playground at Fallon Field, specifically noting

  • the playground’s maturing red oaks, considered by Spurr to be a defining feature of the playground and valuable for the shade that they provide
  • the generally pleasant sightlines afforded by the playground’s location at the top of the park
  • the condition of the existing structures; they noted that the climbing structure for 5-12 year old children is still serviceable and that one option may be to keep that structure, allowing more of the budget to be devoted to other improvements
  • the “secure feeling” for parents afforded by having the playground’s single entrance open towards the park rather than towards a street
  • a few accessibility challenges with the existing layout:
    • the accessible entrance to the park is some distance from the playground entrance, and the grade of the path between them may exceed current ADA standards
    • the sand area is bounded by concrete barriers that limit access
    • the existing play structure for 2-5 year old children requires gross motor skills beyond what is considered appropriate for that age range.

The team from Spurr also showed examples of their work and other area playgrounds that they find compelling. Specifically, the presentation showcased:

  • Menino Park in Charlestown, a fully accessible new playground designed by Spurr, on the grounds of the Spaulding Hospital
  • North Street Playground in Somerville, a vibrant playground and splash pad in an urban setting, also designed by Spurr
  • The Esplanade Playspace in Boston, featuring innovative play elements and some natural design elements
  • Lorber Park at Jackson Square, with its Wallholla climbing structure that makes a “big visual statement” by being “so different and so compelling”

Overall, the Spurr team was confident that they could produce a design for Fallon Field offering a “much higher level of performance and play value.”

Public Comments

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to community feedback and questions. The attendees covered a wide range of topics. Some of the themes that came up were:

  • Designs that accommodate the needs of entire families, including
    • sightlines that allow for a visual connection throughout the playground, allowing parents to keep track of their children even if they do not stay together
    • structures that challenge and interest children across a wide age range
    • comfortable seating (including shade) and possibly even entertainment features (table tennis or bocce?) for adults
  • The incorporation of sand and/or water features
    • The existing sandbox is very popular with some parents
    • Water features are also considered highly desirable
    • Sand and water features at the same site are not generally considered compatible, as the sand creates maintenance issues for the water feature
    • Water features come in many different forms: natural designs incorporating stone, vibrant “splash pads” with spray features, vertical water features, or water tables
  • The use of the park’s topography, specifically the slope just outside the playground, in play features
  • Unique designs including natural and/or adventurous features
  • Traffic and other safety issues at the park, including the playground surface and nighttime use of the park

When specifically asked about some of the more ambitious ideas that were raised, Commissioner Cook responded that the Parks Department is “not ruling anything out.”

Odds and Ends

  • The project team considers the current budget to be a “placeholder” which may need to be supplemented to support the addition of a water feature.
  • There are also renovations planned for Fallon Field’s basketball and street hockey courts; this is a completely separate project and will not impact the budget for the playground renovation.

Thank you all for your participation in the push to improve Roslindale’s play spaces. It was clear throughout the meeting that the community’s enthusiasm has brought urgency to – and interest in – this project among the team members.

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