DCR gives public first glimpse of proposed Esplanade Playspace

The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) sponsored the first public meeting at the State Transportation Building last week to vet the proposed Esplanade Playspace.

According to Joe Orfant, chief of the DCR’s Bureau of Planning and Resource Protection, members of the non-profit Friends of the Esplanade Playspace approached the agency nearly two years ago with its plan of bringing a playground for 5- to 12-year-olds to the state-owned park.

Following this initial meeting, the group met with 25 community stakeholders in the park, including The Esplanade Association (TEA), and hired Boston-based Halvorson Design Partnership as the architect for the project.

Orfant said the cost to build the approximately 10,000 square-foot playground is $1.5 million, which would be “100 percent privately funded with an endowment for maintenance and programming.”

“It’s very seldom that we have someone knocking on our door with a gift like this,” Orfant said.

Four playground sites were selected – one on the island that would be accessed from the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge, two areas near the Hatch Shell café and a fourth location in close proximity to the Community Boating, Inc. facility.

Using history, ecology, grading/draining, location and traffic flow and sound as criteria, the two sites near the café were ultimately determined to be the most appropriate locations for the playground. “There are no permitting issues or negative impacts on nearby landmarks,” Orfant said, adding that building the playground in either of these locations would also serve to improve the Esplanade landscape.

As for the next steps, DCR will unveil a final design for the project at a second public meeting in February. Construction is then expected to take place from March to June, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for July, Orfant said.

Illustration courtesy of Jeff Stikeman of Halvorson

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