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April 09. 2014 8:02PM

Playground debate frustrates Nashua aldermen

NASHUA — Alderman-at-Large James Donchess says he is frustrated that a worthwhile project like Legacy Playground has developed into such a highly divisive initiative.

“I am totally frustrated. I am just unbelievably upset this was held off,” Donchess told the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. He questioned why playground organizers did not approach aldermen sooner about their proposal, a move that he said may have been “tactical” because of inappropriate advice given to playground leaders.

“I think we have tried to take up an issue late in the process that has been handled in an incredibly divisive manner up until now,” said Donchess.

The board opted Tuesday to delay voting on whether the fully inclusive, all-accessible playground should be built at Greeley Park, and instead is referring the matter back to the aldermanic Infrastructure Committee for further review.

While the existing proposal is to construct the play structure on the west side of Greeley Park, Donchess maintains the east side of the park could potentially be more appropriate, or even another site such as Sargent Avenue. Any changes to Greeley Park must be approved by aldermen because of an existing moratorium on construction at the site.

Some aldermen, including David Schoneman, Ward 3, believe an independent study from a third party such as the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston should be conducted to determine the best place in the city for a playground to accommodate people with disabilities.

He has submitted a proposed resolution seeking the study, which could cost up to $5,000. His proposal has been referred to the aldermanic Finance Committee for analysis.

Meanwhile, it will be up to the Infrastructure Committee to decide the next step in this process, which has garnered a lot of public comment from both opponents and supporters of the Greeley Park site.Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy stressed that playgrounds are appropriate for parks, adding he is disappointed the board is not concentrating on solving the problem.
Greeley Park is described as the jewel of the city, according to McCarthy, contending elected officials need to figure out how to make the jewel useful for everyone — including individuals with disabilities.

“Let us get on with it,” said McCarthy.

His fellow alderman, Richard Dowd, Ward 2, echoed those sentiments.

“This is a gift that is going to save the city money, and I think we have analyzed this to death,” said Dowd, stressing Greeley Park should already be fully accessible.

Schoneman maintained that the east side of the park would likely be more accessible than the west side, yet that option isn’t currently being considered.

“There are questions that have not been answered,” agreed Alderman Ken Siegel, Ward 9. An independent study would not stop progress on the playground project, he said.

Alderman Pam Brown, Ward 4, says she worries that representatives from Leadership Greater Nashua, specifically an alumni class that is spearheading the $250,000 playground project, may soon lose donor funding if the matter isn’t resolved.
“It is the kids that are suffering, really. They don’t have a place to play,” she said, adding the existing, dated play equipment at Greeley Park is not handicapped accessible and is dangerous.

khoughton@newstote.com


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