By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — The city will pitch in $50,000 for a community garden, water playground and outdoor learning center at Tattersall Farm off North Broadway near the New Hampshire line.
City Council approved Mayor James Fiorentini’s request for the money last night.
The city’s contribution will be combined with $212,500 from the state and $50,000 from the Tattersall Farm Charitable Trust. Another $80,000 is to come from various private and public groups, including the city’s water and sewer departments, in the form of service and labor donations.
The project also will add parking and include improvements to existing trails on the 150-acre property.
The proposed splash park will feature sprinklers in the ground activated by people stepping on pedals, spraying water for children and others to run through. The community garden will allow residents to have their own areas to do plantings.
Some councilors had voiced concerns about whether a splash park violated the conditions of the agreement under which Mary Alice Tattersall’s estate donated the property to the city. That agreement includes restrictions to the property’s use, including that the farm be preserved and maintained as closely as possible to its historical appearance and condition.
The mayor said those concerns turned out to be unfounded. He said the trustees developed the state grant for the project and that they support all aspects of the plan.
“I recently met with three of the trustees and they assure me that there is nothing in this grant, which they applied for in partnership with the city, which in any way conflicts with the wording or intent of the original document,” the mayor said in a letter to the council.
Fiorentini also said the city will hold a public hearing to review the plan once there is a design concept for the playground and educational facility.
“There is already a caretaker at the farm and it is the intention of the trustees that any educational play facility be closed at dusk and secured by the caretaker,” the mayor said.
Fiorentini said this will be the first and only public playground in the city’s rural northwestern corner.
“There are no schools and no playgrounds in this part of the city,” Fiorentini said. “Many people who live up there feel alienated from the rest of the city, so I’m excited to finally be able to bring them a playground.”
The farm dates back to 1757 when the farmhouse was built by the Haseltine family. The farm was owned and operated by the Tattersall family for most of the 20th century until the last surviving family member, Mary Alice Tattersall, died in 1999.
Mary Alice and two of her sisters, Harriett and Helen, were longtime public school teachers in Haverhill and Methuen. They were known for inviting residents to the farm for tea, according to the property’s history.
The sprawling site currently features 19th century plantings, working hay fields, rolling meadows and wooded paths used for walking, jogging and cross-country skiing, according to the farm’s website.
The property, which is open to the public, is managed by the Tattersall Farm Charitable Trust. The trust is primarily responsible for protecting wildlife on the property and educating visitors on farming and environmental conservation.
The trustees have hosted an annual farm day in the fall for the past six years. Past events have focused on teaching visitors about New England farm life and its cultural and historical influence on the city.
The most recent event featured animal and farming demonstrations, storytelling, art and crafts, pony and hay rides, hot air balloon rides and antique tractor displays.
“The main focus (of the project) is to increase the available space on the farm to adequately provide for the public’s agricultural utilization and to host major events, activities and educational programming,” according to the grant proposal for state funding of the project