Amherst park leaders hire firm to install playground

AMHERST – The leaders of the movement to build a new park in Amherst announced a big step toward building the park in the spring.

They have chosen M.E. O’Brien and Sons as vendor for the playground equipment. M.E. O’Brien, which also built playgrounds at Cemetery Fields and the Baboosic Lake Town Beach, will install equipment from Landscape Structures at Joshua’s Park. M.E. O’Brien has delivered renderings of the new playground, which includes a central climbing/ sliding structure, a toddler’s park, a musical panel, and several spinning, tunnel and bridge structures.

The Joshua’s Park playground committee, working with Recreation Director Craig Fraley, continues to iron out details and pricing, expected in mid-February. The cost, without site preparation or installation, is expected to run about $131,000. "We have a terrific design, thanks to input from dozens of people in the last seven months," said Ellen Grudzien, leader of the playground effort. "The design will fit nicely into the wooded alcove at the end of the Courthouse Road park site – a wonderful place for young children to play." The playground is one of several elements in Joshua’s Park, which includes a community garden, garden shed, nature trail, orchard trees, benches and a brick terrace funded by an ongoing buy-a-brick program.

Park construction, slated to start in May, will be guided by construction and community-garden committees named in December. Sally Wilkins, chairwoman of the Land Trust, said park organizers are cheered by the steady progress on park planning. The trust has already bought the land for $150,000. Still, she noted, the trust, in league with the Amherst Community Foundation, must raise nearly $80,000 to finish its fundraising drive. To date, the partner organizations have raised more than $320,000 of their $400,000 budget.

Amherst Community Foundation Chairman Travis Warren expressed optimism, but noted that fundraisers still have their work cut out for them. "If you back a new community park in Amherst – a park for both kids and adults – you can’t find a better project to support," he said. "Playground, gardens, nature trail and lots of open space – it’s an asset townspeople will enjoy for years." To date, almost 300 people have donated to the organizations’ joint fundraising effort. The keystone donation of $150,000 was given by the family of Joshua Savyon. A leadership gift of $25,000 was given by the Grunbeck Family Foundation. Fifty others have donated more than $500, and more than 200 people, all listed on the park’s website, have bought personally inscribed bricks to go in the park’s central terrace.

The park will be sited on the south side of Amherst Village. Details, a color map, playground images and a "donate" button for cash gifts or bricks are on the park website, Donations and pledges to Joshua’s Park also can be mailed to the Amherst Land Trust, Attn: Joshua’s Park, Box 753, Amherst.