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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nashua's Legacy Plaground, first accessible playground in NH, has dedication

By DEREK EDRY

Staff Writer

NASHUA – As the sun set Thursday evening, dozens gathered for the Legacy Playground dedication ceremony at Labine Park.

The Legacy Playground is the first accessible playground built in New Hampshire, making it safe for people of all ages and abilities – including senior citizens, those with walking difficulties, wheelchair- ...

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NASHUA – As the sun set Thursday evening, dozens gathered for the Legacy Playground dedication ceremony at Labine Park.

The Legacy Playground is the first accessible playground built in New Hampshire, making it safe for people of all ages and abilities – including senior citizens, those with walking difficulties, wheelchair-

using children and wounded veterans.

The five-year process began when the Leadership Greater Nashua Class of 2012, a program of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, was searching for project ideas at the same time the mother of a disabled Elm Street Middle School student approached former Mayor Donnalee Lozeau about creating a park that all children could enjoy.

The project began in December 2011 and was contentiously debated when first proposed at Greeley Park. Knowing that the city had plans to renovate Labine Park, the group pursued a different option, offering $170,000 toward accessible playground equipment and materials to construct Legacy Playground at Labine Park.

Last fall, Lozeau estimated improvements to Labine Park would cost about $275,000. The city had already set aside $75,000 to do the work. That, combined with the $170,000, covered all but about $30,000 of the cost.

That’s where the community came in – more than 200 individual donors raised about $149,000, said Leadership Greater Nashua Class of 2012 member Patricia Casey; and on Aug. 13 and 14, some 200 volunteers banded together to help make Legacy Playground a reality – planting trees, painting, raking mulch, and installing swings and playground equipment.

“It took a village to make all this happen,” project organizer Eric Branch said from the podium Thursday evening.

“Sometimes out of controversy comes some additional benefits that you don’t expect,” Lozeau said.

While the speakers expressed their gratitude for the project’s success, joyful children and adults alike interacted with the play structures, which include the oodle swing, we-saw, slidewinder (which includes an accessibility ramp) and integration carousel, to name a few.

“For any kids, it’s phenomenal,” said mother of two Suzanne Delaney. “Because they see those with disabilities in this environment, they realize they really aren’t that different.”

“There’s nothing like this anywhere in the state,” added Delaney’s husband, Kevin.

Finally came the long-awaited ribbon cutting. Lozeau stood front and center next to current Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess.

“Let’s count from five, since it took that long to get this done,” said Lozeau, reflecting on the process that led them to that moment. As the pieces of ribbon fell to the ground, the crowd roared.

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-6589, dedry@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_Derek.