It has been a while since we have posted an update on the design for the upcoming playground renovation at Healy Field. This isn’t entirely unexpected: while the third community meeting was held just over a year ago, we were aware all along that construction would not begin until the renovations at Fallon Field were complete, to ensure that the neighborhood would not lose access to both of its playgrounds simultaneously. Over the course of the last year we have occasionally checked in with Boston Parks and Recreation to make sure that construction is still expected to begin in early spring. While were aware that there would likely be some changes to the plans, we were unsure of how extensive they would be, or whether they would necessitate a fourth community meeting.
Recently we received an update describing some of the specific changes to the design and learned that there will not be a fourth meeting to present the changes to the community. Our understanding is that the decision not to meet is driven largely by BPRD’s intention to request bids for the design soon enough to begin construction in early spring so the new playground could be completed during the warm months. The design changes appear to us to be largely made with two considerations in mind. First, the locations and the specific types of equipment have been modified to improve the playground’s accessibility. Second, a site survey indicated the presence of utility infrastructure in portions of the playground affecting the placement of some of the play equipment.
Major Design Changes
The drawings we have seen are not as easy to interpret as the renderings typically shown at a community meeting, making it somewhat difficult for us to fully evaluate the changes. Because of this difficulty and because there will not be another community meeting, we are relying on the design team to ensure that these changes maintain the play value and other community preferences included in the previous iterations.
The plans shown below provide an overview of the design changes. Click on the image to open these plans in PDF format.
There are obvious changes to a few of the signature features of the playground design:
- The river has become shorter (and possibly wider) and includes a small splash pool.
- The obstacle/ropes course has been made more compact and has been moved closer to Flaherty Pool.
- The large group spinner has been replaced with an accessible carousel.
- The natural area along the edge of the park has been expanded, presumably to resolve any issues that may have resulted from installing playground equipment above gas and water pipes running beneath that section of the park.
Beyond the major changes described above, nearly every other element in the playground has been moved or changed, as well. Boston Parks and Recreation has supplied us with a list of most of the play structures to be included in the design. By increasing the size of the landscaped area and choosing multiple structures that resemble grass blades, it appears that the designers are planning to augment the natural theme suggested by the inclusion of a stream in the design.
The two climbing structures are located close to Flaherty Pool, on the left side of the plans shown above.
Spinning equipment is located on the far side of the climbing structures from Flaherty Pool.
The play stream is crescent shaped, and is located between the spinning area and the parking lot.
- Goric Farm Pump
- Goric Water Play System A
- Water Stream Sluice Gates:
There are a few interactive play elements located within the water play area.
We appreciate the effort that Boston Parks and Recreation and Copley Wolff have made to preserve the play value present in the original design while also meeting some constraints and design goals that were not well understood previously. However, these changes are in some ways emblematic of the frustrations we have faced in our attempts at expanding opportunities for play in Roslindale. Even in a large park like Healy Field, the area devoted to the playground is small and limited both by earlier design choices (the location of the parking lot’s entrance road) and practical constraints (the location of the utility lines), leaving few options for dramatically improving the playground in what should be our neighborhood’s center of community play. This playground will be a clear improvement from the woefully inadequate structures currently in place, but overall there are too many external issues impacting this design for it to feel like a playground that fully lives up to the park’s potential.