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April 07. 2014 9:47PM

Nashua Official: Greeley Park master plan needed

NASHUA — As the debate continues over whether Greeley Park should house Legacy Playground, a local alderman is suggesting that city officials take a proactive approach to planning for the park’s future.

Alderman-at-Large Diane Sheehan is proposing that a Greeley Park Advisory Committee be formed to address various interests and make recommendations on the use, upkeep, maintenance and development of the 210-acre park — the second-largest park in the Gate City.

Sheehan has drafted a proposed ordinance seeking to form the committee, in addition to a proposed resolution that would remove the city’s Parks and Recreation operations from Greeley Park to a different location within seven years.

“We should be more proactive in planning for the future of this park,” Sheehan said on Monday. “This should be a priority.”

With controversy erupting over whether a fully accessible playground — a gift from Leadership Greater Nashua — should be constructed at Greeley Park, Sheehan said now is an ideal time to create a master plan for Greeley Park, document its history and focus on its needs.

She believes that one of the first steps to improving the park would be to remove the Parks and Recreation Department from the site. Her proposal allows for a seven-year time frame to secure funding and find a new location for the Parks and Recreation offices, garages and storage buildings now located on the east side of Greeley Park.

“It is important to recognize that this is a city park, not a neighborhood park. There needs to be a little more balance and conversation about its future,” said Sheehan.

Her two proposals will be introduced to the Board of Aldermen tonight, and will be assigned to a committee for further review and analysis.

Meanwhile, aldermen are scheduled to vote tonight on whether to have an independent study conducted to determine the best location for the future Legacy Playground. Sheehan said she will be making a request to forego the independent study, however, and instead refer the proposal for Legacy Playground at Greeley Park back to the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure with the understanding that the playground will no longer be constructed in the meadow picnic area, but instead at the site of the existing, dated playground at Greeley Park.

While this may seem like a compromise to some, others say the suggested move from one location at Greeley Park to another site within the park is not enough, maintaining a third-party review is warranted.

“The Institute for Human Centered Design has an undeniable expertise on ADA accessibility issues including as they pertain to play areas,” Francis Murphy wrote in a letter to the Board of Aldermen. “These consultants should be engaged to review the eight to 10 sites chosen for consideration by the Infrastructure Committee, including three in Greeley Park, and to assist the board in choosing the site that is best for the disabled community.”

According to Murphy, there is a group of concerned citizens willing to pay half of the cost of the IHCD study — up to $2,500.

“Let us start being transparent and objective about this worthwhile playground,” wrote Murphy.

Paul Shea, who believes Greeley Park is the best site for the new playground, has compiled data and produced a map showing where supporters and opponents reside in comparison to the park.

While most people are in favor of the playground, divisiveness remains on where it should be located. Among the 58 people who have spoken out publicly about the matter, Shea has calculated that 57 percent of them favor Greeley Park and 43 percent are opposed to Greeley Park for the playground’s home.

Shea maintains that the majority of people who are opposed to Greeley Park live in the direct vicinity of the park.

Sheehan is hopeful that a public hearing can be held on April 23 to allow the organizers of Legacy Playground to present engineering plans for the latest site being proposed at Greeley Park.

Tonight’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen begins at 7:30 at Nashua City Hall.

khoughton@newstote.com


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