2018-06-28 / Front Page

School lets out while playground rings in

BY RYAN GIBBS


A bird’s-eye view from the 28-foot-tall lighthouse shows dozens of children running toward the rides during last Thursday’s grand opening of the new playground on North Road. 
PHOTO BYEILEEN DONNELLY A bird’s-eye view from the 28-foot-tall lighthouse shows dozens of children running toward the rides during last Thursday’s grand opening of the new playground on North Road. PHOTO BYEILEEN DONNELLY The final bell of the school year is a monumental moment for children around the globe, but for students in Jamestown, the last day was especially exciting.

Summer vacation commenced last Thursday with the unveiling of the North Road playground near the library. Officially named the Jamestown Community Playground in honor of Officer Ryan J. Bourque, it opened under sunny skies with fanfare that featured music, hot dogs, Del’s Lemonade and dozens of screaming children breaking through a ceremonial ribbon on their way to the new rides.

“This playground was inspired by the children of Jamestown,” said Andy Wade, director of the parks department. It was designed, he added, to be “as creative and successful” as their futures.


Workers began pouring concrete in March while snow was still on the ground, taking hiatuses during three consecutive weeks hammered by nor’easters. Workers began pouring concrete in March while snow was still on the ground, taking hiatuses during three consecutive weeks hammered by nor’easters. The playground replaces the one built by volunteers in 1990. At the time, it was hailed as the first playground in America made entirely from recycled plastic. Those rides, however, no longer meet safety standards.

“Every structure has a lifespan,” Wade said. “As awesome as the playground was, it was here for almost 30 years.”

Setting sail

The nautically themed park features two main structures intended for different age groups. The smaller complex in the center features two slides and a boating theme, complete with a mast and sail, and was designed with toddlers in mind. The largest structure, a 28-foot-tall lighthouse featuring bridges, four slides and an observation deck, was built for elementary students. According to Wade, the goal was to design the park so children could traverse fluidly from one ride to another. As much as they could within today’s safety guidelines, he believes the designers achieved that objective. The structures also recall similar elements of the 1990 playground, which Wade said was intentional.


Although the snow eventually subsided, April showers rained on the crew’s parade as they began building the 28-foot-tall lighthouse. 
Photos by Andrea von Hohenleiten Although the snow eventually subsided, April showers rained on the crew’s parade as they began building the 28-foot-tall lighthouse. Photos by Andrea von Hohenleiten “We wanted to try to recreate as many elements as we could,” he said.

The playground was designed by Massachusetts firm M.E. O’Brien & Sons, the largest supplier of outdoor recreation equipment in New England. The structures were built by Landscape Structures of Minnesota. According to Wade, 75 percent of the equipment was either custom-made or specialized from base models. For example, the ship was expanded from its original design and converted from a pirate theme to a generic sailboat. The lighthouse, meanwhile, was created specifically for Jamestown.


Dry weather arrived in May, which allowed crews to begin working on the playground’s base. Dry weather arrived in May, which allowed crews to begin working on the playground’s base. “We’re the only ones to have a tower that looks exactly like that,” Wade said.

The side of the ship boasts a plaque bearing the name of Bourque, the Jamestown police officer who was killed by a drunken driver in May 2016. Police Chief Ed Mello believes the community rallied around Bourque’s spirit, which led to the park’s magnitude and its speedy construction.

“That was the catalyst to get this done,” he said. “That’s what really pushed it forward.”

Giving it some zip


The first day of summer, and last day of school, provided sunshine for the grand opening, which was capped off by dozens of children running through a ribbon. The first day of summer, and last day of school, provided sunshine for the grand opening, which was capped off by dozens of children running through a ribbon. Along with the two centerpieces, the playground features a zip line, a swing set, a pyramid built from climbing cargo nets and an Oodle Swing, which is similar to a tire swing that can accommodate multiple riders.

When deciding which rides should be included, Wade sought input from the residents who would be using them. Wade asked students at Melrose School to draw what they most wanted to see in the new park. One request rose to the top.

“Zipline,” Wade said, “and boy do we have a nice 50-foot zip line.”

Indeed, the zip line proved to be popular during the grand opening, with a line of children eager to ride across for the first time. Third-grader Matthew Shurtleff, 9, said the zip line, along with the lighthouse’s roller slide, were his favorite elements.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I like the zip line because you can stand or sit. I like the scenery. I like everything.”

Also enjoying the rides for the first time was South Kingstown resident Ava Hayes, 11, who made a special trip with her mother to see the renovations. An occasional visitor to the former playground, Hayes said she enjoys the new park more than her hometown’s.

“I like it better because there’s more slides and more things to do than any other one,” she said.

While most of the children were thrilled with the new rides, there was some sentimentality among the crowd, including 12-year-old Max Borges.

“Personally, I like the old one more because I grew up with it,” the sixth-grader said. “But this one I think is going to be fun.”

The $305,000 park was financed through $85,000 in taxpayer money specifically earmarked for the project. Additional money included $100,000 from a state grant and $120,00 in private donations.

The old playground was razed in December, while construction on the new park started in February. Every structure was installed by mid-June, but the department still was landscaping just 60 minutes before the grand opening.

Although the park is open, there is still one pending construction project. A memory walk, which will be a pathway into the park from the northeast corner, will be installed in the fall. It will feature bricks and granite slabs engraved with messages from donors. This also is when the playground will officially be dedicated to Bourque.

Wade also has considered a musical section to complement the neighboring Jamestown Arts Center, which would feature a metallophone, contrabass chimes and pagoda bells.

Return to top