, Salem, MA

November 2, 2013

Letter: A new pool could bring neighbors, generations together

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

I have to admit, I did a little happy jig when I heard the Patton Park pool redesign would be brought to vote at the Hamilton Special Town Meeting Monday. There are so many great reasons to vote in favor of the new pool, like the increased value it will add to area homes and the additional revenue it will bring to local businesses, but the most important of them all is the way in which it will strengthen and enhance our community.

My husband and I have lived in Hamilton for 10 years. Before we moved, we were living in a place that while fun and hip was completely devoid of community connections. We barely even knew the names of our next-door neighbors, much less those who lived down the street. One weekend we came to visit friends who lived here in Hamilton, we watched them greet their neighbors as friends, heard them discuss cooking meals for local families in need, and witnessed their calendar full of community events, and realized all that we had been missing. Within six months we purchased and moved into a house down the street, our little slice of Hamilton. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made, a feeling which has only multiplied over the years as we started a family and began raising our kids here. How amazing our lives are here, filled with neighborhood cookouts, Mother’s Club holiday celebrations, school ice cream socials, and community fundraisers. We love living here, each and every one of us is blessed to be able to call Hamilton home.

That’s not to say that our town doesn’t have its areas in need of improvement. One of the biggest things we are lacking in is a shared heart. Our community is one made up of many ties. What school your kids go, or went to, what neighborhood you live in, what club you are a member of, what sports your kids play, even what restaurant you prefer to get drinks at. All of these small things bind us, but they also separate us. Honestly, how many issues in town have you heard simplified to an us vs. them explanation? Little ties are wonderful but a strong town, a tight community, also requires spaces and experiences shared by all.

This is why Patton Park, that wonderful plot of land right in the center of our town, has always felt so sad to me. What an amazing shared space that for years went completely underused to the point of near abandonment. What a shame to take for granted such a lovely resource. I used to run past Patton Park and feel sad, sad for our community that we spent so much investing in assets outside of town instead of the ones in it, sad for our kids that most of their favorite childhood memories were made in spots outside of their home town, and sad for out park that went unplayed in and unloved.

But that all changed this summer with the completion of the new playground! Seeing the park so full of people, hearing all those happy noises, watching the joy of it all, how sweet it has been. The revived Patton Park hasn’t just given our children new equipment to explore, it has given our community a place to gather as one, to be whole, to share life together. I can’t even count how many more connections I have made in the town thanks to that playground. There is something very beautiful about a community sharing joy together, it makes neighbors into friends and friends into family. All communities need that!

On a recent Saturday I stood in the park watching my son’s flag football game, there was an all-class Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School reunion at the gazebo and the playground was overflowing with happy families, around me were people of all ages from all different areas, and social circles, of the two towns, and it hit me, oh, here is our heart. These are the ties that will build our community. The more of our lives we share the stronger our town gets.

This new pool will only continue to enhance that. It will provide us with another shared gathering place, another opportunity to build our community connections. We will no longer need to travel outside of our towns, or to separate ourselves by what club we can afford, to enjoy a cool swim on a hot day. Our children can take swim lessons right next to their grandparents enjoying a water aerobics class. Our neighbors with disabilities will no longer be left out. We will be able to enjoy our community together. And we won’t have to increase our taxes or pass a single override to get this. Talk about a CPA project that will do the most good for the largest portion of our community!

But none of this will happen if the proposal for the CPA pool funding does not pass at the town meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the high school. Please help us preserve our community, help us build our heart, attend the meeting and vote yes for the pool.

Martha Hale Farrell