September 28, 2017: Belmont Citizen-Herald
When I first moved to Belmont 30 some years ago, I was privileged to have the Pequossette Park as part of the “backyard” to my Maple Street home. While the park use at that time perhaps involved more baseball than soccer, one aspect of the park that stood out to my Midwestern eyes was the presence of kids (and their families). There was conversation and laughter. There was communication. There was community.
PQ Park, as it is known, has long been one of the most used open spaces in Belmont. People think of the park’s three distinct parts: the tennis courts, the fields, and the playground. The tennis courts recently were renovated by the Town, while the fields are well tended by Belmont’s soccer officials. Now is the time for Belmont to also turn its attention to the PQ Playground. In recent years, Belmont simply has not had the money to routinely repair and replace playground equipment as it probably should have under ideal funding circumstances.
The need to address Belmont’s parks and playgrounds, generally, can little be questioned. It’s not just because our playground equipment is getting old and worn out. The use of our playgrounds is increasing. We’ve all heard in recent years about the impact of the increasing number of kids in Belmont’s schools. It thus should come as no surprise that that same increase is also putting pressure on our parks. Town Meeting was told this year that “[t]he increase in Belmont’s school population has put a strain on the existing recreational facilities. According to the Open Space and Recreation Plan, school enrollment increased by more than 20% between 1990 and 2008. In order to accommodate this increase, existing recreational facilities require extensive improvements.”
Given these circumstances, PQ neighbors, with the active support of town officials, turned to Community Preservation Act funding to help renovate the playground. Devoting CPA funds to such a project is precisely what CPA was intended to be used for. PQ neighbors organized community support and helped usher a comprehensive planning process through a series of public input meetings. When a final renovation plan was approved, the neighborhood group kept that plan on track to be actually funded and implemented.
The proposed renovations are not simply directed toward the kids. There will be new inter-generational walking paths as well as places where residents of any age can simply sit down to enjoy reading a book on a sunny day. Drainage will be improved and new trees planted. Facilities that have served Belmont residents over the generations, such as (what I have always called) the PQ Mountain and the PQ tricycle path, will be preserved and enhanced.
It doesn’t just happen, though. While CPA funds have been committed to the renovation of the PQ Playground, CPA officials insisted that if town funds were to be used for the playground, community members should also demonstrate a financial commitment to the park. A new nonprofit support group, Friends of PQ Park, was created and gained a tax exempt status. The Friends group was charged with raising $35,000 in private funding by September 30th of this year. The Friends group will also keep its eye on ongoing maintenance needs.
Community support for recreational facilities has always existed in Belmont. Belmont supported the reconstruction of Joey’s Park. We supported the construction of the Underwood Pool and the Butler Playground. It’s now time for everyone to step up to the plate to help the PQ Playground as well. Contributions of any size can be made through the Friends of PQ Park website (http://friendsofpqpark.weebly.com/) or by mailing a check to “Friends of PQ Park,” 31 Walnut Street, Belmont.