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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nashua’s Legacy Playground resolution headed for another public hearing

NASHUA – With a recommendation for a new location on the east side of Greeley Park and newfound momentum, the proverbial ball known as R-14-001 – the Legacy Playground resolution – is headed for another public hearing.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, the public will have a say on a new amendment, the fourth since the original resolution was introduced back in January, to locate the playground in a specific area of Greeley Park and preserve all mature trees in the process. ...

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NASHUA – With a recommendation for a new location on the east side of Greeley Park and newfound momentum, the proverbial ball known as R-14-001 – the Legacy Playground resolution – is headed for another public hearing.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, the public will have a say on a new amendment, the fourth since the original resolution was introduced back in January, to locate the playground in a specific area of Greeley Park and preserve all mature trees in the process.

The amendment was approved unanimously at Tuesday’s special aldermanic meeting, which was called to discuss the details of an independent site study conducted by Boston-based Institute for Human Centered Design.

The institute, which presented a report to aldermen and other city officials over the weekend, ended up recommending a site on the east side of Greeley Park, near the Bandshell, as the best location for the future Legacy Playground, an all-inclusive, specially designed facility that would accommodate children and young people of all abilities.

Ward 3 alderman David Schoneman, whose ward includes all of Greeley Park, made the motion to amend the resolution to reflect the institute’s recommendation. It states the location of the playground “shall be on the east side of Greeley Park” at the site identified by the institute as “Greeley Park – east – south side of access road” and ranked No. 1 on its list of seven sites consultants evaluated during the study.

A second provision notes that “no mature, healthy trees shall be removed” for the installation of the playground.

Two of the three main individuals in the institute’s study – Jennifer Brooke, principal and founder of Lemon-Brooke Landscape Architecture in Concord, Mass., and Ana Julian, an architectural design specialist with the institute – explained the study and fielded aldermen’s questions Tuesday night.

They were roundly praised by the aldermen and several members of the public who spoke during comment period, which was moved to the end of the meeting by a 9-5 vote. Ward 6 alderman Paul Chasse was absent because of illness.

The report, and the consultants’ explanations, seem to have assuaged – at least in the short term – the high-running emotions on both sides of the issue.

Eric Brand, a member of the 2012 Class of Leadership Greater Nashua and the project manager for the playground, said he arrived at Tuesday’s meeting “with a lot of things in mind that I wanted to say.”

In one published news report Brand said he “definitely has some concerns with the results of this study,” specifically citing the “grading in that area,” referring to the institute’s choice of the east side of Greeley Park as it’s top recommendation.

He said he also was worried about additional costs to properly prepare the east-side site, and that it may need additional ramping for which costs “would override our budget.”

He later acknowledged that “a lot of my thoughts have changed” after the presentation.

“We are pleased with the results,” Brand said of the study, reiterating what he called LGN’s original intent “to find the best place for the playground.”

He referred to some residents’ and some aldermen’s earlier suggestions that LGN had been eyeing a site on the west side of Greeley Park, where the current playground is, since it launched the project.

“When we started out, our minds were not set (on locating the playground) in Greeley Park; our minds were set on finding the best location,” he said.

“Getting the opinion of an independent study has brought a lot of value to this,” he said of the months-long back-and-forth over the project.

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