At the December 2008 meeting of the Salem Commission on Disabilities, our chairman, Jack Harris, gave us some unpleasant news on the Salem Common playground project. Parents in the neighborhood have wanted a renovation of the existing playground for about two years.
According to Steve Dibble, the Salem Common neighborhood association reviewed—and rejected—plans that he presented to the group. Steve Dibble is formerly of the Salem Parks and Recreation Department, and has his own company, Dibble & Sons Park Equipment, Inc, selling playground equipment.
We had the pleasure of meeting Steve several years ago when he gave a presentation before the Commission on special playground equipment for kids with disabilities. Steve was and is very knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs of people with disabilities. We had hoped the Common group would consult with him on the new playground.
Apparently, the group asked Steve for a design, but they rejected it.
Last summer, as I blogged A Playground for the Common, the playground project hit a bump when one of the neighbors complained that the planned playground wasn’t historic enough; this neighbor thought, if I recall correctly, that the playground should have “a ship, or a McIntyre house for kids to climb on."
The rejected design had a ship motif, according to Jack. So what’s the problem?
The only way the Common association could be happy is for Samuel McIntrye himself to come back from the dead and design a playground! He literally built just about everything else in Salem.
Steve Dibble said something else too: According to him, of all the playgrounds in Salem, there are no “tot lots”, play areas designed for children 2 to 5. Furthermore, the Common area is the best location in Salem for a tot lot; it’s near two hotels and numerous inns; it’s active yet very pedestrian-friendly.
I have seen many parents and their young children on the Common over the years, all year round. When I was on the Common walking my friend’s dog several times a day, young children very often came up to me to want to pat the dog (this dog, a yellow lab and fine Southern lady, considered all children to be her puppies!)
There is another reason to support a playground:
This is 86 Essex St. I blogged about it. It’s on the Common. It is the only public housing in Salem for people and families with disabilities. Yes, families. Children. Jack Harris himself has two special-needs daughters who use the Common and there are several other families there with special-needs kids.
This building was renovated just last year. Does this look like a slum? Does this degrade property values?
I’ll say it again, it’s on the Common. It has been on Salem Common for 23 years.
23 years. My foster mother, myself and our immediate family were one of the first tenants there in 1985.
We were there first.
Some people have complained about the reuse of the building, since it was once the Phillips School (which I attended!), but at the time it became housing my Mom had become disabled and could not be independent in our old apartment on Osgood St. This was the right use of the building for her and her neighbors. It still is.
It belongs there now, and so does a playground.
Is a playground, a playground for children with disabilities, that much a threat to the character of the Common? To Regina Flynn’s or Michael Coleman’s property values? If the playground comes, does Sammy McIntyre’s ghost cry?
Jack Harris is going to sit down with Jason Silva to try and get this moving. I had to bite my tongue when this came up during the meeting (or else we’d be there for hours more.)
But I’m not going to hold back now.
Shame on the Salem Common snobs. Shame on you.