The Hippo


May 25, 2020








For more information about Legacy Playground 

To donate to Legacy Playground, send checks to United Way of Greater Nashua/Legacy Playground Project, 20 Broad St., Nashua, NH 03064. 
For more information of Friends of Greeley Park visit

Playing nice
After deadlock debate, the state’s largest all-access playground gets a home


 After months of debate and compromise, plans to build Legacy Playground in Nashua’s Greeley Park have been approved, and design and fundraising efforts are moving forward for what will become the state’s largest universally accessible playground.

The project started with the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Greater Nashua class of 2012. Each year a new class plans a project that benefits the city, and this group is still, two years later, trying to see Legacy Playground to fruition. 
The 11,000-square-foot hybrid-style structure will allow children of all physical and mental abilities to play together. It will feature elements for hearing, vision, mobility and other sensory impairments. Universal access will also be considered when designing the landscape around the playground.  
“We’ll bring in structures with ramps, for example, so a person who can’t climb stairs or is in a wheelchair could navigate it. There will be wide slides, so two people can go down together,” said Tricia Casey, chair of the Legacy Playground fundraising committee. 
The biggest debate surrounding the playground was where to put it. Local residents have been concerned with preserving the aesthetics and purity of the park. 
“[Greeley Park] is, I think, by all accounts an icon of Nashua,” said Francis Murphy, a founding member of Friends of Greeley Park, created to oppose building Legacy Playground at the park. “My feeling is we are degrading the space by not maintaining it and adding too much clutter. … We shouldn’t do things that are completely out of its character.” 
Nearly seven months after the original legislation was proposed, the Nashua Board of Aldermen has voted in favor of building the playground, but at a different area of Greeley Park. Moving forward, members of both the Leadership Greater Nashua group and the Friends of Greeley Park will have input on the playground’s design. 
The Leadership Greater Nashua class is continuing its fundraising efforts, which had been put on hold until a location was secured. Meanwhile, the members of Friends of Greeley Park are finding other work for their newfound nonprofit. 
“There was a lot of compromise made,” said David Deane, president of Nashua’s Board of Aldermen. “Greeley Park is a very historic piece of property in the city and unfortunately there’s been things that have been dumped in there that really have no business being dumped in there. There’s a lot of strong feelings from a lot of people.”
Finding the playground’s place 
The 160-acre Greeley Park, which spans from the Merrimack River to Concord and Manchester streets, was bought in 1801 by Joseph Greeley and deeded to Nashua in 1896. 
The green space and wooded areas are dotted with landmarks, like a stone fieldhouse and fountain, a German Howitzer from World War I, a bandstand, gazebo and community garden. 
“Almost any bride who is getting married and looking for outdoor photos comes to Greeley Park for wedding photographs,” Murphy said. “In June, before the proms, students all dressed to the nines went to Greeley Park for photographs.” 
After working with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to determine possible locations, the Leadership Greater Nashua group agreed on Greeley Park. Approximately 45 or 50 parks in the community were on the list of possibilities, but  many were scratched off the list early.
“Some parks have asbestos or had been built on landfills. Others have gas lines, lacked parking, were too busy, or didn’t have public bathrooms,” Casey said. “We narrowed it down to just a few locations, with the priority being Greeley Park. It met more requirements than any other locations.”
At one point, the committee decided it was a good opportunity to replace an existing Greeley Park playground, with 70-year-old equipment and perhaps a few rough spots. 
“The only piece of accessible equipment at the existing playground is one swing that a person who could not use a regular swing could sit in. It has a high back. There’s a big old slide with a rusted hole in it,” Casey said. 
Usually building on parks is in the jurisdiction of the the city’s Department of Public Works. But a moratorium meant to prevent unsightly building in Greeley Park was established in 1997. It’s the only park in the city that requires Board of Aldermen approval. 
The playground replacement didn’t sit well with Friends of Greeley Park.   
“They were going to take it down and put up what I assumed was the standard big, bright plastic. I thought that was out of character and contrary to the moratorium,” said Murphy, who lives near the park. 
The conflict divided city officials and came up at meetings over and over again.
“There were a lot of hard feelings,” Deane said. “I was constantly between ... Friends of Greeley Park and the Leadership Greater Nashua group. It got a little crazy.”
That “craziness” led Friends of Greeley Park in May to offer to pay for half ($2,500) of a third-party study that would assess possible locations, identify the best ones and, with any luck, make the decision clear. The study was conducted by Jennifer Brooke, a contractor with the Boston-based Institute for Human-Centered Design. She presented her findings to the Board of Aldermen in early June. 
On June 19, the Board unanimously voted to approve the top-ranked location at the east side of Greeley Park; it will not replace the existing playground. 
“We asked for it. They came up with their suggestions, and we’re being forced to live with it,” Murphy said. “Our preference is to have it as suitable for the Greeley Park character as possible — the opposite of the ferris wheel and carnival — something dignified,with a small footprint and taking into consideration contour of the land.” 
Working together
The location is settled, but the design still needs approval. 
Deane and a supermajority of the Board of Aldermen co-sponsored resolutions to hire the Institute of Human-Centered Design to design Legacy Playground and to create an advisory position for one member of each of the groups. A contract was sent to the Institute the first week of July. 
“I must say, it can be frustrating [to work with] a firm outside of this city,” Casey said. “We were working with design companies free of charge. … However, the aldermen have elected to pay $15,000.”
But Deane said it’s the best option. 
“It would work as basically mediation on the whole thing and hopefully calm the waters down a little bit, and I think it’s going to work just fine,” he said. 
With the deadlock resolved, Leadership Greater Nashua is back to work with a goal of raising $250,000. They’ve already earned $132,000 from corporate sponsors, private grants and individuals. They also have a few more grant applications out and are working on a fundraising event for later this year. 
“I hope this brings awareness to all types of abilities and that it allows the community to continue to grow together including all of its citizens,” said Eric Brand, a member of the 2012 Leadership Greater Nashua Group, who has a son with multiple disabilities. 
Meanwhile, the Friends of Greeley Park are setting their sights on other projects. 
“We came together and incorporated over the debate about the playground, but we as a group decided our purpose ought to go beyond the playground to advocate for a master plan to see about ways to preserve Greeley Park and enhance its beauty,” Murphy said. “We hope we have legs and life beyond playground debates.” 
As seen in the July 24, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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