WEST CHESTER – Has anyone else remembered those squeaky swings in Marshall Park that were built in the 1960s? Asked Jeff Beitel, president of Marshall Square Friends Park.
Beitel is happy to replace those swings that have annoyed some residents enough to take them in their arms and apply oil to soothe them.
The new equipment in the park, founded in 1878, will be designed for children aged 2 to 5. In the spring of 2017, a play area for children aged 5 to 12 was added to a park in the north-eastern part of the district.
The new area will be covered with safe mulch and will have a large play area for the little ones.
The effort to make the park more child-friendly is a public-private partnership. The landowner, the district and the Marshall Square Friends Park have been working together for more than five years on the new playground.
The pandemic and lack of funding for the area have halted ongoing construction. Parks and Recreation Director Keith Kurowski said the project could be completed by Friday, May 6th.
The only member of his department, Kurowski oversees 13 parks in the area. There are eight separate “Friends” organizations.
“It’s a very coordinated effort,” Kurowski said. “If we follow this, we can come up with very interesting results.”
Friends have invested $ 33,000 in improvements that include accessible swings for children with disabilities. The equipment will cost $ 45,000 and the total cost will be about $ 78,000. The district will take the tab for the rest.
“We have a vision for improvement, and the district has supported our vision, even though they didn’t have the money,” Beitel said. “We managed to raise money for a successful public-private partnership.
“We worked together to make it happen.”
The Recreation Commission and Friends of Marshall Square Park, a member and mother of two, Chantal Fieldhouse has spearheaded the project since her children were just 3 and 1 year old. The children are now 8 and 6 years old.
Visiting other parks in the area, Fieldhouse found that there are usually separate areas for older and younger children.
She wondered why there are no sections in Marshall Park for both toddlers and older children. She also noted that several new residents with children had moved to the neighborhood.
“The demographics of the neighborhood are changing, so it’s important to have a playground for all ages,” she said.
Because the vision has long been a reality, now her children, who organized a lemonade stand to fund a new playground, can use equipment designed for older children.
When asked if it was ironic that her children had grown up and would no longer play on the equipment she was fighting for, Fieldhouse smiled.
“If everyone said that nothing would work in this world,” she said.
Friends led several projects in Marshall Square Park.
Eight years ago a historic fountain was re-installed, four years ago a wooden sculpture was carved, four years ago a toilet was also renovated and a year ago a fountain for dogs was installed. The Swiss cottage was also preserved about 12 years ago, and a small library was established about six years ago. Current works include the reconstruction of the park gazebo and the maintenance of historic ramparts.
Further plans of the “Friends” provide for the installation of fencing and landscaping to protect and improve the streets of Matlock and Marshall. New integrated tracks will also be improved using a sidewalk.