hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 7, 2013

Playground facelift the right choice by volunteers

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — As the restaurant district thrives and people continue to invest their lives in the city center, it is important to remember that Haverhill is more than just its downtown.

There are farmers trying to make ends meet in a culture started generations ago by their ancestors. There are rural areas of the city where neighbors volunteer their time to be on call if a fire breaks out or another emergency happens, with full-time firefighters too far away.

And there are inner-city neighborhoods where some children are lucky if they have a place to play that is safe. Take the kids who live in the Portland Street section of the Acre neighborhood, for example.

Their Portland Street playground has been repaired in the past, only to slip into decay again. Transient residents of the area sometimes dump old furniture there. An old dead tree threatens to drop branches onto the playground, risking the children’s safety.

In the meantime, the neighborhood’s children make the best of it. They play there when there’s not much snow on the ground and the temperatures aren’t too below freezing. During the good weather, they really need a way to escape their houses and apartments, so they go to the playground and again, make the best of it.

Enter the Team Haverhill volunteer civic group. People attending the organization’s annual Possible Dreams event last week came up with the idea of giving the playground a facelift. (See story, page 1.) It is a refreshing and noble choice, especially after many of Team Haverhill’s previous projects targeted the growing downtown.

Notable among those projects have been the huge Gateway Mural on the side of a four-story downtown building. Then there’s the River Ruckus festival, which focuses on the stretch of the Merrimack River running through the heart of the city.

Joining Team Haverhill in the playground renovation are neighbors who have invested their lives in the Portland Street area. Together they will raise money and give sweat equity to the project, aimed at giving those inner-city kids a safe and decent, even top-notch place to play — and keeping it that way.

The Portland Street playground renovation is a worthwhile choice by Team Haverhill. It is encouraging that neighbors are willing to jump in and help out.

It’s not a glitz and glamour project, but one which will affect young lives positively.

Simply put, the kids deserve it.