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June 13, 2014

Plans underway to revamp playground at Peabody park

PEABODY — The city is due to receive up to $200,000 in a state grant to replace a tiny playground at MacArthur Park with a bigger, better play space and tie the park into a system of walking trails in South Peabody. There’s even talk of a braille trail.

The plan is to remove the existing structures — a swing set, slide and a stationary vehicle — regrade the land, enlarge the 3,000-square-foot play area, install new equipment over a rubber surface and create an entryway to a new trail system.

Several trees would also be planted to act as a natural border instead of fencing, and the backstop for the baseball field would be repaired. No changes are slated for the basketball court.

City Parks and Recreation Director Jen Davis said she’s considering kiosks with braille signs at a trail head and along the trail. It’s a newer concept she heard about at a conference and wouldn’t be a huge undertaking. Rope could be used as a guide between informational kiosks.

The park is in what state officials call an Environmental Justice neighborhood — it’s near a low-income area with no other parks or playgrounds nearby. The designation is a major factor in the city securing the state grant.

MacArthur is at least a mile away from the three closest parks.

“The land has been used for over 100 years as a park, but the structures are very minimal,” said Davis. “They’re in OK shape, but they’re not very exciting or inviting.”

She wants to add more non-traditional play structures and engaging equipment, similar to the new Welch School playground.

Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne says it’s about time, calling the project “a wise choice” for the area. He’s also pleased to see the connection with the nature trails.

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