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Opposition won't halt splash pad plans for Braintree's Watson Park

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 7, 2013 05:04 PM

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Despite neighborhood opposition, plans are moving forward to build a splash pad at Braintree’s Watson Park.

Plans have been in the works since December 2010, when Mayor Joseph Sullivan decided to use a portion of the $1.9 million accrued from a donation by tugboat Captain August Petersen to update the park.

Petersen had left $65,000 to the town in 1963 for the purpose of building a pool in the park space. Yet by 2010, it became clear that the neighborhood opposed a seasonal pool in the area.

Plans were changed to build an Athletic Complex at Braintree High School, which would include the pool. Meanwhile, for the park, ideas shifted to incorporate a splash pad, walking trails, and upgrade the picnic area by the seawall, a $150,000-$200,000 project.

“It is to try to create another amenity for families to utilize the Watson Park and to remember the benevolence of Captain Petersen,” Sullivan said.

Neighbors soon critiqued the plans, saying that they felt a splash pad - a sprinkler-type water fountain for children to play on in the summer - was an unwanted use of the park space.

A petition was circulated by Andrew Buttaro throughout the neighborhood, gaining 150 signatures before being submitted in December.

Another online petition has 22 signatures thus far.

In a phone interview, Buttaro said he has a child himself, and that he is not against the idea of a splash pad in Braintree, but rather one in his neighborhood.

"Down there is a dead end. Kids can come down, ride bikes, there aren’t many places in the neighborhood you can do that. If there are crowds from a splash pad, that wont be possible anymore," Buttaro said. "A lot of residents don’t feel it's something for them. This is sure to attract people from neighborhoing towns and communities, it will draw crowds."

According to his comments on the online petition, his aim is to help preserve open space. Furthermore, there are better places this could be put, such as the Braintree/Weymouth landing.

“We want to preserve our park and do not want concrete and pavement covering the park for these highly seasonal facilities that will be empty over 85% of the year,” he said in the petition.

Buttaro added that it would be difficult to maintain a safe environment in the area, that the water could easily be contaminated with goose droppings, and the money should be used for it’s intended purpose – a pool.

Furthermore, Buttaro said he was concerned about the tax dollars that would need to be spent to maintain these facilities.

Other petition signers agreed, listing issues from parking to traffic issues to littering.

“While the traffic, geese, and additional peripheral issues mentioned by others are important, my main reason for opposing this project is that more parking means less green space. Once lost, green is gone forever. Being so close to Boston, maintaining open areas of land with grass, trees, and other vegetation should be a #1 priority. The splash pad itself is less an issue for me than the asphalt. The park is beautiful as it is!” said Ellen Ruggles in the petition.

Despite their concerns. Sullivan said there were many neighbors in support of the project, and that it is a good use of some of the funding.

“I’ve met with Andrew, I’ve had discussions with him. I know of his concern…I understand and respect it, but I still believe that the splash pad will add additional fun element and be an attraction that families will enjoy for many years to come,” Sulivan said. “It allows us to invite families and to create more of a family oriented park.”

The Department of Environmental Protections approved the plans despite an appeal from Buttaro. Bids are expected to go out sometime in January with construction expected to start in March. With luck, the project will be completed by mid to early June.

Sullivan said the project meant a lot to him personally, especially as he can remember walking through the park as a child with his father, who told a young Sullivan that a pool was planned.

“I was probably 10, 12 years old, in the early 70s, and here we are 40 years later. We’re not going to put a pool there, but we’ll put a splash pad. That will give young kids an opportunity [to enjoy the park] and we’ll also embrace the gift of Captain Petersen,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that the system would be state of the art, and that water will be recycled and purified before coming back through the system.

Maintenance will eventually be worked in to the Department of Public Work’s existing budget.

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