By Alexandra Molnar, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Grafton may finally be getting its SuperPark back, a playground that has long been missed by parents and children alike.
Residents enjoyed the former SuperPark, which had existed since the 1980s, until it was torn down in 2010 to make room for the new Grafton High School. Though there were never any formal promises from the town, people expected a new park to be built.
So in December 2010, the Grafton Board of Selectmen charged a committee to start the process of developing plans for a SuperPark and to find a location. Despite stalled efforts in July 2013, progress is currently well underway as the Committee’s charge was revised in December 2014. As of now, the five-member committee has determined a location, a design, and a budgetit is now a matter of receiving more funds in order to go forth with construction.
Jen Thomas, a resident of Grafton who is also on the Board of Selectmen, joined the SuperPark Committee as the chair in January.
“I wanted to help drive the project forward, but I also wanted to keep all of [the work of the original committee],” Thomas said. The original members are all still on the committee.
The largest obstacle currently in the way of implementing the plans is funding: at the May 11 Town Meeting, two articles on the warrant sought $243,000 for the first phase of the SuperPark. The committee secured $100,000 from Community Preservation funds. They did not, however, secure the $143,000 requested from leftover funds from building the Grafton Fire Station. The secured funding is not enough to go forth with Phase one.
The Committee, still hopeful about the possibility of the park, is reconvening to discuss other potential funding sources. Thomas said that town funds are an option, as is waiting to try again to obtain funding at the October Town Meeting. Private funding and grant applications are also possibilities.
As envisioned, the park would be built on a beaker-shaped 13,000 square foot parcel of land adjacent to the library.
“The whole driving force was to create a park where children of all ages and abilities can play together,” Thomas said.
The park would be wheelchair accessible, so its plans involve a complex system of ramps and poured-in rubber as surfacing. The rubber allows for a soft impact, yet would remain level and firm enough for easy accessibility.
The SuperPark plans are divided into three phases: Phase one focuses on the lower ramping system; Phase two includes the large towers and smaller playground for children ages two through five; and Phase three, contingent upon park use and general support and interest, includes a splash pad.
The plans for the park incorporate ideas from throughout the community, ideas that were procured through surveys and discussions with school kids. Park features include swings, slides, a mini zip line, and monkey bars. The Committee has been collaborating with O’Brien and Sons, based in Medfield, to build the playground.
What makes the projected park unique is that it is designed for children of diverse ages and abilities so that all children can play together. At other playgrounds, the equipment is often for younger kids whereas the SuperPark is designed for ages five through twelve.
Thomas said that the committee envisions the SuperPark as a “destination playground.” At some point, they would like to add benches, a walking path around the playground, and even restrooms. Since parking on the town common is limited, there is a possibility to add parking and an access road as well.
“Certainly a part of our population is very enthusiastic about bringing a park back,” Thomas said.
Thomas outlined the numerous benefits of a SuperPark: it will bring people from all parts of town into the town center from where they can go to the library, get lunch, or stop for a coffee. Additionally, the park could share services, such as parking and restrooms, with the library.
The committee originally hoped to begin construction in the fall when they would hold a “community build” in which community members could participate to build the playground. Besides being fun, having volunteers to help build would save 35 percent of the cost.
“[The SuperPark] is going to be a great asset to town,” Thomas said.