by Laura Fratus
(Plain Press, April 2006) Fairview Park, the municipal park in our neighborhood, has been in the process of major reconstruction for the past six months or so. This is very exciting for our family and for the community. There’s only one thing that concerns me at this point: is it possible that a completed park will be as much fun as a park-in-progress? It’s hard to imagine.
The recreational opportunities available in a half-finished park are so many and so enticing that I’m not sure why anyone ever finishes a project like this.
To begin with, there was the dirt pile. As part of the reconstruction, much of the property was re-graded. The result was a huge pile of topsoil, perhaps twenty feet tall, left for several weeks in deep left field. My son claimed that this dirt pile was part of the master plan, and it was supposed to be called “Lookout Hill.” He loved the possibilities that the dirt pile afforded, from sledding to real games of King of the Hill.
Although I didn’t remember such a feature being included on the original design presented by the city architects, I knew that there might be some tweaking to the plan as construction got underway. How clever of them to think of adding this wonderful feature!
To my son’s great regret, Lookout Hill was eventually scooped up and carted off. But there was some trade-off, since a large bucket from a backhoe was left behind in the process.
I participated in the planning of the new park space, and I think I can say with some certainty that in all the discussion of park amenities, spare parts from heavy equipment weren’t considered alongside new swings and monkey bars.
I realize now that this was another unfortunate omission. On a recent cold and blowy Sunday afternoon, I sat in the park with my dog for more than 30 minutes, watching two teenage boys trying to chuck rocks and bits of broken concrete into that backhoe bucket. It may not have been very good for the bucket, but I feel quite certain it was good for the boys.
Meanwhile, my own son and a neighbor friend were busy digging with scraps of discarded rebar in a small pile of clay left over from the leveling of the softball field. Had the dog and I not become too chilled from sitting on our new park bench, the kids would have probably spent the rest of the afternoon drawing patterns in the dust, happily oblivious to wind and cold and runny noses.
Later this spring, the park will be complete, and I’m looking forward to spending the summer there with our kids and our neighbors, playing on the new climbers and cooling off in the new water fountains. But we’ll miss the raw materials for play that the half-finished park provided. I hope as the city wraps up its work there, some small corner of the park might retain a few unsightly piles of big sticks, rocks, and plain old dirt.
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