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New Lynn playground off limits with COVID-19 ban

By Gayla Cawley | March 23, 2020

LYNN — There’s a mixture of excitement and concern from Ward 6 City Councilor Fred Hogan as the long-awaited installation of $50,000 worth of new playground equipment at Warren Street Park is nearly complete. 

Although the city’s youth may be itching to use the new playground, doing so could put its health, and that of the community, at risk as the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to spread throughout the state. 

Hogan said last week he crossed his fingers when he was driving by the park in hopes that no kids were on the playground. 

“It’s kind of a bummer, but we’re just trying to make sure everyone is safe,” he said. “We’re just following the guidelines put out in front of us with the (city’s) emergency task force. It’s difficult times, but it’s new to all of us and we’ve got to get through it.” 

Mayor Thomas M. McGee last week ordered that all playground structures within the City of Lynn be shut down until further notice.

In his remarks to the City Council, McGee said the unfortunate measure was necessary to prevent community spread as the coronavirus can live on hard surfaces for up to nine days. He also prohibited people from playing sports in parks that require physical contact, such as basketball. 

Still, Hogan said there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the near-completion of Warren Street Playground’s $120,000 facelift, which has been in the works for more than a year. 

In addition to the new playground equipment, which replaced a broken swing set, two new basketball courts were installed last summer and the space will include a community garden. 

“It’s just exciting stuff,” said Hogan, who represents the area. “Parks and playgrounds just make the community feel good so the kids can go out and play in a safe environment.” 

A unique aspect to the project was that the city’s youth helped pick out the new equipment. When the books featuring potential options for new playground sets came in, city officials took them over to Warren Street.

Kids who were using the park that day picked out the equipment that has now been installed, Hogan said. 

The work, which was paid for as part of a $4 million bond authorized by the council in 2015, was desperately needed, the city’s Community Development Director James Marsh said in a past interview, noting that the park had fallen into disrepair. 

The renovations were aimed at detracting from the park’s negative nighttime activity, which had developed a reputation for gang activity over the years, officials said. 

Along with Warren Street, the bond, which was supplemented with funding from community development block grants, was targeted at revamping the city’s other dilapidated parks as well. 

For instance, the basketball courts were removed at Bennett Street Playground and the park area was turned into a “tot lot,” a small playground for young children. 

About a decade ago, Hogan said rims had been taken off the court’s basketball hoops because of problems with gangs and the goal of the $50,000 renovation was to make it more of a park for kids. 

“It’s a good park to go down there with the toddlers,” said Hogan. “We should see a lot of action there when these restrictions are lifted.”