UPDATED: Splash pad down the drain, but playground proposal remains

Above: What the playground at South Union School would look like (design by New England Recreation Group)

There may not be any water to splash around in, but Recreation Director Doreen Ferguson still hopes to create a new place for Southborough kids to play.

Earlier this year, Ferguson along with the Recreation Commission floated a plan (pun!) to build a splash pad and playground on the grounds of the South Union School, which houses the Recreation Department and the Arts Council. Ferguson said the splash pad portion of the project has been dropped due to concerns about the budget and ongoing maintenance costs, but she still hopes to get funding for the playground.

At town meeting next week, Ferguson will ask voters to approve $96K in Community Preservation Act money to fund the playground. Ferguson estimates an additional $41K would be required to clear the land and install the playground equipment, but she’s hoping to collect that through donations.

Ferguson acknowledged that times are tough and voters might be reluctant to commit money to a recreation project, but she says the playground would be a “win-win.”

“A playground will bring more people to the building,” Ferguson said, and that she says will bring in more money for the town.

Ferguson said in addition to providing a much-needed recreation space for kids — the playground would be free to use and open to all — a playground would complement and expand current offerings by the Recreation Department. She envisions being able to offer full-day programs for kids, with some time spent indoors and some time out, and using it for birthday parties booked through the Recreation Department.

“This is going to help the Recreation Department self-fund, to help take the burden off tax payers,” Ferguson said. “If I want to keep this department going, I need more space to do things.”

The proposed playground would have multiple play structures and would be designed for kids ages two through twelve.

Ferguson is scheduled to present her plan to selectmen at their meeting tonight in the hopes of gaining their support before town meeting next week. Selectmen previously voted not to support the original proposal that included both the playground and splash pad.

You can see more detailed plans for the playground on the Recreation Department website (southboroughrecreation.com).

Update 04/06: Selectmen last night opted not to endorse the playground proposal. Both said it was a great idea, but that now is not the time given the fiscal challenges facing the town. Voters will get the final say at Town Meeting next week.

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Tessa Stephens
13 years ago

Good luck Doreen ! You have my vote.

Living the dream
13 years ago

Let’s think responsibly here. People can’t afford to eat or live and you want money for a playground?? We have plenty of playgrounds in the town. This one needs to be tabled.

carrie alpert
13 years ago

is this the area near the proposed EMC extravaganza? i have just about had it–well i am actually past “had it” with big business not paying their fair share. How about a big business stepping up and funding the playground. So absolutely done with HUGE corporations living the dream while mainstream walks around saying “how you living?” I would also like to see big business/corporations in the area give back to education, work with the communities and if they feel as though they need to be recognized for it stick some advertising on the buses.
done and done. so done.
love this town. love my kids teachers and the peeps i volunteer with but am so frustrated with the disparity and the ease at which the kids are being discarded by some–when you table educational needs you are saying that the kids do not matter, they did not make the reckless decisions
i loved last year when the library needed X amount of funds and those of us who adore our library and librarians rallied around them~take some pride in the connections you have.

Pat Q
13 years ago

1). Where does the CPA money come from? I know payments are attached to our tax payments …but are funds also matched by the state? (if so, how much?)

Do we currently have the 96K in a CPA fund?

Mike Hanigan
13 years ago
Reply to  Pat Q


Several Years ago, Town Meeting voted to participate in the Community Preservation Act program. We voted to participate so that a 1% surcharge is added to our property taxes. Initially, the state matched 100% of our town contribution, so in effect, if we spent $100 on a project, $50 came from our town property taxes and $50 came from the state. Over time, the state had reduced their matching contribution from 100% to something like 40%.

The state mandates that CPA money be split into affordable housing, open space/recreation, historical, a few other segments and a general segment. I don’t know the exact splits.

The $ for the playground comes from CPA money already collected.

Pat Q
13 years ago
Reply to  susan

Thank you Mike H. and Susan.

Another question…….if Town Meeting happens to vote this request down, what happens to that money? Does it just sit?

13 years ago

Niiiice. People would be able to save money on MBTA parking and park car near playground for free while taking train to Boston.
Town do not need another waste of money – playground on Central street is more then enough. Spent some money to fix it up.

13 years ago

$96K for another playground right around the corner from the one at Finn School? Really?

13 years ago
Reply to  susan

I still think Fayville Park is central enough for north and south side residents, and it’s not so over crowded during school hours that there is a case made for needing another playground with facilities that duplicate something that already exists in town.

Deb Moore
13 years ago
Reply to  Cindy

I haven’t decided whether I support this other playground, but I can tell you why I don’t go to Fayville playground as much as I might: The only real shade available is too far from the playground equipment if one has very young children, or an infant-in-arms who ought to stay out of the sun; I would love more trees that could shade the equipment itself; that kind of growth takes a long time, however. The parking alongside a sometimes busy street makes me nervous getting my kids in and out of the car. The train tracks across the field make me a bit nervous; maybe they shouldn’t. In the two or three minutes I was helping one child, I lost track of my oldest, who returned in another two minutes, so proud that he had walked the half-block down to route 9 and back to see the cars.
I do go to Fayville playground, and no playground is perfect. I don’t know if this other playground would have the same issues, aside from the train tracks. I don’t know if the shade issue will ever be different at Fayville park, and the nearby heavy traffic issue boils down to parental vigilance, as always, but I also go to other parks, a bit further away, where I can relax more.

Anita Reeder
13 years ago

I’d much rather see CPA monies used for a playground for the little ones than that monstrosity on the corner of Rt. 85 (River Street) and Southville. Why in the world would so much money be spent on something that looks so hideous? I have to look at that rusted bunch of metal every time I go somewhere except to Ashland and I can assure you it has done nothing to make the south side of Southborough attractive. It was fine the way it was when it was just trees and grass, but if people decided they needed to do something else with it, why, oh why, did they decide that using special metal that looks rusted was the way to go? Why couldn’t it have been metal that DOESN’T rust? That would have been so much more attractive. In the end, the triangle park should have been left as is and the CPA funds that were used should have been used on something more worthwhile…just my opinion, of course…..and hindsight is 20/20, but going forward I hope that the CPA funds are used for more worthwhile projects.

13 years ago

Anita: I appreciate that you are upset, but as the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I personally love the way the triangle looks. I grew up in Galway (Ireland) and Eyre Square in the middle of town has a couple of metal sculptures manufactured with the same distressed rusting metal. I always loved them, so I’m taken back to my youth when I walk past the park.

13 years ago

My kids are older now, but when they were younger and I lived down the street from Finn, I didn’t have any problem waiting until school was out to use the playground… EVERYONE has a car, there’s a great playground in Ashland and our playground on Central Street if I wanted to go somewhere. And let’s face it folks, nearly everyone has a swing set in that section of town as well.

I think putting a playground at the Arts Center is a waste of money… but I think the town has to support the arts, and maybe find some more paying programs to use the building, and create more awareness that we have (had) that resource. I know some of the artists that used to be in the building, and lost their studio space when the town took it over. They paid rent, and were a vital part of the shows that were going on there. Why do we pay the rec staff and not fund the arts? Both are vital for the kids in this town.

13 years ago

You know what if you folks all like the arts and you want more little kiddie parks than pay for it yourself or put it in your yard and stop looking for the community and state to foot the bill for you. And the CPA funds are bill and should be voted away. It costs me $400 a year in CPA funds on my tax bill and it burns me as well. Carrie, take up the cause and bring it to vote on the floor of the annual meeting . You can do that.

Sean Cronin
13 years ago

My name is Sean and I’m a recreation commissioner – so please understand we’ve considered all these comments and still support the playground.

The current recreation team has salaries that are nearly 1/3 – 1/4 of the amount of revenue they generate through outstanding, value added programming – Summer Camp, RAP and facilities scheduling in town. This playground would give additional means to generate more revenue that we could ultimately use to defer costs of upkeep of fields/facilities OR return to the town coffers.

We have this year added additional usage of the South Union building to host programs and have generated an estimated $12,000 – the playground since it provides and indoor option (South Union) and bathroom facilities would provide a great additional revenue stream that other current playgrounds do NOT.

Please understand these recreation employees and team members have had NO pay increase in FY11 and they have forfeited their step increase hoping others (unions) would follow suit. In FY11 we also reduced office personnel by 19.5 hours, losing vital clerical and public relations functions that we had to take on…all these items point to a recreation team that continues to add incredible value and hopes to get support in the town meeting for this valuable team and valuable playground project.

Friends of the Southborough Recreation Department
13 years ago

Congratulations to Doreen Ferguson along with the Recreation Department staff and Recreation Commission for all of your hard work and support of the proposed playground on the grounds of the South Union School, which houses the Recreation Department and the Arts Council. Thank you to the Community Preservation Committee for supporting the funding through the Community Preservation Act and to all voters who attended Town Meeting to voice their opinion. This playground will be a gift to all children in Southborough and has the potential to create a new source of revenue for the Recreation Department. Thank you to everyone for working together to make this happen!

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