EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 8, 2014

Volunteers give new life to old playground

Playground: Neighborhood kids to get safe place to play

HAVERHILL — One of the poorest neighborhoods in the city is also home to one of the most neglected playgrounds.

But city officials, along with the Team Haverhill community improvement organization, are looking to turn things around by renovating the Portland Street Playground.

Plans have been in the works for about a year to give the playground a total face lift, and this spring and summer those plans will turn into action.

City officials said it’s an area that needs attention and now is the time.

Neighborhood residents gathered recently with community volunteers and Mayor James Fiorentini to review plans and build support for the complete renovation of this inner-city playground.

Recreation Department Director Vincent Ouellette said that over the years, several groups have adopted it and have cleaned it, but it has become difficult to maintain the area. From time to time, people moving out of the neighborhood dump furniture and other items in the playground.

Located on the section of Portland Street that is between 4th and 5th avenues, the playground was the site of a public school until the building was demolished decades ago.

The last major renovation to the court was about 25 years ago, when the city received a grant from the Boston Celtics and Bank of Boston. The two organizations were providing grants to renovate inner-city basketball courts across the state. The work involved laying down a new top coat of asphalt over the existing court, along with the installation of news poles, backboards and rims.

Then in the late 1990s, the city learned the original basketball court on the site was built over buried tree stumps.

Ouellette said that over the years the court has been sinking and heaving, especially around the backboard area, and must be replaced.

”We are working with Covanta Energy, which volunteered to remove all the old asphalt and tree stumps and bring in clean fill to bring the site to sidewalk grade,” Ouellette said. “Then the city will pave the area for the basketball court and will replace the hoops, backboards and rims.”

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