Children in five communities south of Boston will have new places to play and stay fit with the help of money from the state.
Braintree, Brockton, Quincy, Randolph, and Weymouth were each awarded funds recently under a one-time state program to help cities build or renovate playgrounds and spray parks.
“We are extremely excited,” Marc Craig, director of community programs for Randolph, said of the $150,000 the town will receive to create a rope “challenge course” for older children at Belcher Park, near North Main and Allen streets.
“These funds are going to provide some middle school- and high school-aged children and even older ones a great outdoors space to have recreational programs,” he said.
The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is committing up to $200,000 for playground and spray park projects in each of the state’s 54 cities through the Our Common Backyards program. All but two of the cities were awarded funds in an application process, according to Krista Selmi, an agency spokeswoman.
Braintree, Randolph, and Weymouth are towns, but they qualified for the grant program because the state considers them cities due to their forms of government.
The initiative is meant for playgrounds and spray parks but allows for other improvements if there is money remaining. Cities are asked to provide a $50,000 local match, but the state is flexible with that requirement, Selmi said. All projects must be completed by the end of this year.
Belcher Park — a mix of open fields, woodlands, and a pond — is used for town recreation programs and youth soccer, and as a place to walk. But the park has no play structures.
“A number of years ago, the town invested in putting new traditional playgrounds all over town that really serviced the under-12-years-old crowd. So when we saw this grant program, we decided to apply for something a little bit different to draw in the middle school and high school crowd,” Craig said.
The challenge course will consist of low-hanging rope stations scattered about in a one- to two- acre portion of the park. Each will be designed so it can be used by individuals or by groups for team-oriented activities. The town is kicking in $50,000 from its Community Preservation Act revenue.
Brockton will receive $125,000 to construct a new Mulberry Street Playground, with the city providing $60,000. The project also involves resurfacing the basketball court and erecting new fencing at the site, located in the city’s inner corridor just north of downtown.
The site now contains the dilapidated remnants of a former playground that was abandoned by the city about 20 years ago, according to Mayor Bill Carpenter. He said the old basketball court is also no longer useable.
“This is in a neighborhood that has struggled a little bit. It’s for that reason that I’m so excited about getting funding to restore this playground. A big part of our strategy about neighborhood stabilization is empowering residents to reclaim open space,” Carpenter said, calling the Mulberry Street Playground another step in that effort.
Braintree was awarded $145,787 to build a playground at Hollingsworth Park, on Pond Street. The playground, situated near the town center, will replace a circa-1970s playground that the town removed in March due to safety concerns and in anticipation of the grant, said Michael Coughlin, chief of staff to Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan.
Coughlin said Sullivan views the project as “another piece of a larger plan” to improve all of Braintree’s neighborhood parks. The Town Council will soon be asked to authorize the $50,000 local match needed to obtain the state money.
The state will provide Quincy with $200,000 to replace the existing playground at Faxon Park, a recreational park in south Quincy that includes wooded trails, athletic fields, and basketball courts. The city plans to match the grant with $50,000 from its Community Preservation Act revenue.
“It’s a great program,” Christopher Walker, chief of staff to Mayor Thomas P. Koch, said of Common Backyards. “The mayor is grateful to the folks at the state level for providing this kind of assistance. There is clearly an acknowledgement that these playground and park areas are important to the families who live in cities in the Commonwealth.”
Walker said the project is part of a program of park and playground improvements the city is undertaking, most of it with $500,000 appropriated last year from the city’s CPA revenues. The other projects include the planned replacement this year of playgrounds at the Atherton Hough and Squantum elementary schools and the tennis and baseball courts at the Perkins Playground.
“These are major quality-of-life projects,” Walker said, noting that the parks and playgrounds “get well used and there is a definite need citywide for replacement.”
The $200,000 awarded to Weymouth will be used with $60,000 in town matching funds to replace the existing playground at Bradford Hawes Park. The East Weymouth park on Lakehurst Avenue also includes a baseball field, a grove of pine trees, and a basketball court.
“It’s very helpful because it allows us to do something at this park that we hadn’t scheduled at this time,” said James Clarke, the town’s planning director. “We are doing some major park improvements throughout the community,” and this project will be added with the help of state funding.
Clarke said the town plans to consult with neighbors about other improvements that could be undertaken at the park, such as planting shade trees, installing benches and picnic tables, and adding a walking trail.John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.