Thursday, August 28, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;66.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-08-28 21:08:29
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Aldermen hear from playground design experts on No. 1 choice on east side of Greeley Park

NASHUA – An amended version of the long-discussed Legacy Playground resolution, which was settled upon at a special Board of Alderman meeting Tuesday night, will now be the subject of a public hearing at the June 11 meeting of the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure.

That next step, which many voiced hope will be among the last before the playground begins to take shape, will give residents the chance to comment on the tweaked proposal. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

NASHUA – An amended version of the long-discussed Legacy Playground resolution, which was settled upon at a special Board of Alderman meeting Tuesday night, will now be the subject of a public hearing at the June 11 meeting of the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure.

That next step, which many voiced hope will be among the last before the playground begins to take shape, will give residents the chance to comment on the tweaked proposal.

Tuesday night, two playground design experts told aldermen and about 20 onlookers that the consultant, Boston-based Institute for Human Centered Design, chose the east side of Greeley Park adjacent to the Bandshell as its No. 1 site because of its minimal slope, easy access to parking, existing bathrooms and general “feel of a park.”

Jennifer Brooke, a professional landscape architect who happens to have a child with multiple disabilities, and Ana Julian, an architectural designer with the Boston-based Institute for Human Centered Design, said the consultants’ chief focus was considering how much a particular site would need to be modified, or changed, to accommodate the proposed object – in this case, an all-accessible playground.

The No. 1 site also scored well in the group’s review, Brooke said, because it is relatively flat and is accessible by pedestrian paths and public transportation.

But late into the discussion, the question of whether the institute had received all pertinent information on the sites surfaced.

Board President David Deane said he asked Eric Brand, the Legacy Playground project manager, if he had any “relevant information that he wanted to send to the institute,” and what he received he passed on to city attorney Steve Bennett to forward to the Institute.

Ward 4 Alderman Pam Brown asked Brooke whether additional information on the sites would have changed how the consultants viewed the sites.

“It’s hard to say, but from a design perspective it’s more efficient and logical to have the site first, then go forward with the design process,” she said. “From that standpoint, it wasn’t illogical not to have that information.”

Brand, who spoke during the public comment period, said he was “pleased with the results” of the study and that his “thoughts had changed” after listening to the presentation and other comments Tuesday night.

“Getting the opinion of an independent study has brought a lot of value to this,” Brand said.

Earlier in the discussion, Brooke praised Nashua, from city officials to residents, for devoting so much “energy, concern and effort” to the issue.

“The fact that the conversation has reached this point is truly impressive,” she said.

“You have no idea how much fun we’ve had,” Deane said, drawing a round of laughter.

The intent of those who conducted the study, Brooke said, was not to decide whether “one site is better than another,” but “how much needs to be changed to be optimal” for a project like Legacy Playground.

A second site on the east side of Greeley Park, which is near the outfield of a softball diamond further away from Concord Street, came in at No. 2, Brooke said, because it’s very similar to the No. 1 site except for its proximity to existing parking.

The Greeley Park west site, long favored by LGN and a number of city officials, came in at No. 6, Brooke said, mainly because of a lack of existing parking and a barrier-free path.

“It’s a lovely, beautiful site with a mature forest, but the parking is problematic, access is somewhat sloped and there is no path that’s barrier-free,” she said.

Alderman-at-large Dan Moriarty cited Brooke’s reference to the unusually high amount of use that the existing equipment at Greeley Park west has gotten over the years.

Brooke said the “use patterns” – such as the depth of the “divots” underneath the swings – show that the playground is very popular, especially among older children.

“We were taken by the use patterns,” she said, adding that she can’t recall seeing a playground that shows that amount of use. None of Nashua’s proposed sites “drew that kind of use,” she said.

Ward 5 alderman Mike Soucy suggested Greeley Park’s west side should remain “as pristine as possible,” adding that “we have to look at the long term” and the fact there is more activity on the east side of the park.

Alderman-at-large Jim Donchess agreed, saying that part of the protracted battle over Legacy Playground’s site selection, which led to the commissioning of the independent study in the first place, was rooted in the need for a master plan.

That need “has become very obvious,” Donchess said, suggesting the city consider developing one and bringing in a consultant like Brooke for assistance.

The matter of shade at the various sites was brought up by Brown, who used wide-open Roby Park as an example.

Brooke said the issue is typically remedied by planting trees, specifically “fast-growing trees” that solve the problem while waiting for the more aesthetically-pleasing slower-growing trees to fill out.

An ongoing concern, Ward 3 alderman David Schoneman said, has been how well a structure fits into the site that is eventually chosen.

Brooke, in response, hailed Greeley Park, especially its west side, as a place with “strong edges” that represents a “very English idea of what a park looks like – natural, restorative, and it’s managed well,” she said.

Even the oft-panned Bandshell, she said, “fits in, in a way that isn’t disruptive to the natural resource.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).