By John Buday – June 26, 2019
Construction begins later this summer to replace the worn playground equipment at EMC Park after several breakdowns over the past few years.
With a $260,000 budget provided by Hopkinton’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC), program coordinator Jennifer Hart of Parks and Recreation said she expects construction to start sometime in July or early August.
Kompan, an equipment provider headquartered in Austin, Texas, provided the specs for Parks and Recreation personnel: ADA-compliant equipment that Hart referred to as “very focused on inclusive play.”
While the pavilion and baseball field will remain open during the construction period, the playground is closed. Families may use the nearby playground at Marathon School in the meantime.
“A swing at the park recently broke while a child was using it,” Hart said. “Thankfully she was not hurt, but it was another clear sign that we made the right decision to move forward with replacing the equipment ASAP.”
Finding replacement parts proved expensive and unfeasible, as many of the pieces are no longer manufactured. Parents also expressed worry about their children contracting ticks from the wood chips surrounding the equipment.
EMC’s skate park is being removed due to safety concerns, the wood having warped and rotted beyond worth of repair.
Hart credited the Hopkinton Moms Group for pushing the project, as members of the group spoke up in favor of CPC funding at the May 6 Town Meeting.
Moms Group president Sarah Navin lauded the passion of Hopkinton mothers in supporting the replacement of playground equipment.
“A bunch of moms really took to the charge and took time out of their schedules to go to all the meetings and to send letters and to go to the town vote back in November,” Navin said. “It was unbelievable how many moms — how many parents — we had show up and even speak at the Town Meeting because they just felt so passionately about this park.”
“I think our moms kind of lead the force as far as being vocal about their concerns and then trying to spread the word as much as we could to as many other entities in town, so that they could spread the word.”
The nearly 20-year-old park began with Cheryl Lucas, former executive director of the Hopkinton Community Playground Trust (HCPT). She partnered with Michael Egan to transform 4 acres of land into the playground that first opened in 2000.
One of the featured fundraisers was the buy-a-brick initiative, which promised donating families the inclusion of etched bricks in the park bearing their names: a permanent marker of their contribution. Buy a brick and other fundraisers contributed to a $214,000 total raised by the HCPT.
“Everybody really really — blood, sweat and tears, put themselves into the fundraising part of it,” said Debra Kelly, who was a member of the EMC Park Committee and led that initiative.
“The old guard are the bricks,” she added. “They are the families that made this happen, and they need to preserve that.”
Hopkinton Parks and Recreation reported that the bricks will remain in the park alongside the pavilion and baseball field.
Navin said she enjoyed working with Parks and Recreation, and that it impressed her how much Parks and Rec cared to work for the benefit of the town alongside regular community members.
“I’m really proud of our community and how much we were able to help make this possible,” Navin said. “I really think that this upgrade is really necessary for safety reasons, for ADA reasons. … I think this is going to be a wonderful upgrade to an awesome landmark that we have here, and I’m just proud that we were able to be part of it.”
Kelly also accepts the need to meet safety regulations, but she said she hopes adequate care is taken to maintain the new equipment after its installation.
“The biggest thing for me and what I’ve gotten through the years with the park is that there was really no way in which they were able to maintain the park,” she said. “There really was no way in which they kept the park up, they just didn’t, and it was really disappointing. How can you have a park when nobody takes care of it?”
Following construction and installation, Hart said her department will focus on gauging community interest for a new skate park and approach the CPC for funding if the support develops.
These renditions show how parts of the new EMC Park playground will look, although instead of the blue ground cover pictured the town will use engineered wood chips.