HAVERHILL — One of the city's smallest parks just underwent some big changes. Cashman Field on Hilldale Avenue — north of Lafayette Square — now has an improved skateboard park with new elements designed for grinding and jumping. The city also installed a new fenced-in play set, similar to the one at Riverside Park.
Kids can swing, climb a wall, hang from cables, go down a slide or spin themselves silly on a merry-go-round. And wherever they land, it's on a specially engineered padded surface called "engineered wood carpet."
Vincent Ouellette, director of recreation, said the city spent a total of $244,000 to upgrade the park, using a PARC (Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities) grant and Community Development Block Grant money.
"The old skateboard park was about 25 years old, the surface was chewed up and the elements were out of style for today's skateboarders, who really enjoy the improvements as they can now do more grinding and jumping," he said. "We asked the kids what they would like to see and we used a professional skateboard company along with an architect to come up with the best skateboard park we could have for the money allotted. The kids who skateboard are quite happy with it."
Erik Olson, 18, of Pelham, dropped by the skateboard park on Thursday. He's skated at parks throughout the region and as far away as New York.
"I heard about it and wanted to check it out," he said. "It's very smooth, the ledges slide like butter but there's a lot of empty space where they could put quarter-pipes, a flat bar and maybe a little kicker ramp. But other than that, I love it."
Ouellette said the renovations to Cashman Field also include a handicap accessible gravel walking path as well as several new park benches. All of the changes come after the city refurbished the basketball court a few years ago.
The court will be dedicated to the late Michael Rowinski at a ceremony at the park on Sunday at 10 a.m. Members of his family are expected to attend along with several city officials. The city installed a new bench at the north end of the court and had it inscribed with "Basketball Courts Dedicated to Mike 'Coach' Rowinski."
Rowinski, who died in 2014 at age 57, was a basketball coach for many years at Georgetown High School and a basketball and baseball coach at Northern Essex Community College. He worked as a behavior specialist and was also a director with Haverhill's summer camp program for many years.
Ouellette said Cashman Field also has a baseball diamond that is used by the Riverside Bradford League as well as by church groups that hold games and picnics and by neighborhood kids
"It's a good old fashioned park," Ouellette said.
Renovation work began in March and the project was completed June 30.
He said ANJ Construction of Peabody was awarded the contract to upgrade the park with money the state provided to Haverhill.
Other city parks have seen improvements in recent years, including Swasey Field on Blaisdell Street, which underwent a massive $2 million renovation a few years ago.
Riverside Park is targeted for more improvements, including improvements to its back parking lot and the clearing of some trees along a walking path by the river.
"We just added a new cantilevered shade structure at the play area and some new trees," Ouellette said.
GAR Park got a face lift a few years ago with the installation of a play set and benches, as well as improved walkways, lighting and irrigation for greener grass, while the Portland Street playground saw new benches, a playset, fencing and a basketball court with the help of Team Haverhill.
"Now we're looking at another grant for Wysocki Park," Ouellette said. "Improving our parks has been a big push by the mayor as was the boardwalk and the Bradford Rail Trail, none of which existed five years ago. Haverhill really is becoming a recreational center with big improvements in recent years."
He said the city is eyeing other parks for improvements, including the 12th Avenue Playground, the Wood School Playground, and the Plug Pond Recreation Area.
"We're always looking at opportunities for state money to make improvements," Ouellette said.