EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 18, 2013

City commits $25K makeover for playground

Portland Street playground to host neighborhood block party tomorrow, review design plans

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — A deteriorated inner city playground is about to get a long overdue facelift.

The civic volunteer group Team Haverhill and the city have teamed up to remake the playground located on Portland Street between 4th and 5th avenues.

Mayor James Fiorentini has committed $25,000 in federal grant funds and Team Haverhill $8,500 for new playground equipment and to remake a basketball court in the park that is sinking because it was built over buried tree stumps.

The largest contribution — $85,000 — is expected to come from the non-profit Kaboom organization, which funnels corporate donations to local communities for playgrounds.

Alice Mann, president of Team Haverhill, said that as long as the Kaboom grant goes through, work on the new playground is expected to start in the fall.

“For almost a year, we’ve been talking with neighbors and others with family connections to that neighborhood,” Mann said. “This in a neighborhood that very much needs a safe place for youngsters to enjoy outdoor activities that doesn’t cost money.”

The playground was the site of a public school until the building was demolished decades ago. In recent years, it has often been a dumping ground for furniture.

Tomorrow, a local religious group called The Vine is hosting a block party at the playground from 1 to 4 p.m. to clean the area and to discuss possible designs for the new playground.

The second annual neighborhood gathering is to include free food, free kids activities and face painting, according to information on The Vine’s web site. Hundreds of people showed up for last year’s inaugural event, organizers said.

Fiorentini said the city money will come from Haverhill’s Community Development Block Grant program. He said the donation is part of his commitment to improving parks and playgrounds throughout the city this year.

“It’s an area that is in need of attention,” Recreation Department head Vincent Ouellette said of the Portland Street playground. “Over the years, numerous groups have adopted it and have cleaned it.”

City Council approved the city’s financial commitment to the project at last week’s meeting.

“Everyone benefits when city government, civic volunteer and religious organizations, neighborhoods and individual volunteers work together to achieve a common goal,” Councilor Colin LePage said. “The Portland Street playground is another example of the growing community spirit in Haverhill.”