Belmont Children Will Help Design a New Joey’s Park


Existing Wooden Playground Must Be Replaced 

Belmont, MA, September 6, 2012 — Playground safety inspectors have determined that Joey’s Park is rapidly approaching its end of life and a volunteer group plans to build a new playground next year with design input from children and a massive community “barn raising.”

The project launches Wednesday, September 20 at the Winn Brook Elementary School with a community-wide Design Day. Students will share their ideas for a playground and then watch as a designer creates a preliminary plan for a new Joey’s Park. That evening the public will be invited to see the day’s results.

In 1989, volunteers built Joey’s Park in memory of 12-year-old Joey O’Donnell. His friends came up with the idea of creating a playground and – as with the new park – children helped design it. The community made donations, big and small, and ultimately came together for a massive “community build.” The result is the one-of-a-kind structure that still stands today.

The magic of Joey’s Park persists, but the 23-year-old wooden structure is deteriorating and will soon be beyond repair. In November of 2011, town officials closed Joey’s Park after it failed a safety inspection. By patching entrapment hazards and removing many key features that do not meet current codes – including a fire pole, balance beam, monkey bars and bridge – the town was able to reopen the park on a temporary basis.

At the request of town officials, 35 Belmont families formed the Friends of Joey’s Park to determine the park’s future. The committee ruled out the possibility of repairing the park because the cost of replacing the deteriorating wood alone is estimated to be over $100,000 and would likely extend the park’s life by only five to ten years, given the condition and age of the wooden posts. In addition, a rehabilitation project of this size would require that the playground follow regulations from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which the old design could not meet.

The Friends of Joey’s Park committee selected Play-by-Design from among 22 playground design firms to lead the community in creating the new Joey’s Park. The goal is to build a new park in September of 2013.

Quick Facts About Joey’s Park

  • Built in 1989, in memory of Joey O’Donnell. Joey attended the Winn Brook Elementary School and the Chenery Middle School where he was a friend to many and an inspiration to all. He lost a lifelong battle to cystic fibrosis at age 12. Joey O’Donnell is also the inspiration for The Joey Fund – which has raised millions of dollars for research and funded promising treatments for cystic fibrosis.
  • Joey’s Park is located on Cross Street next to the Winn Brook Elementary School, but is owned by the town and used by families from across Belmont and beyond.
  • Diligent maintenance over the years has extended the life of Joey’s Park. Most wooden parks from that era have already been torn down.
  • The original Joey’s Park is expected to remain open until construction begins for the new park in September of 2013.
  • Friends of Joey’s Park is a volunteer committee made up of people with a wide range of expertise including design, fundraising, community organizing and project management. The committee welcomes volunteers.
  • Repairing the park would likely extend its life only by 5 to 10 years and is estimated to cost more than $100,000.
  • Play by Design is a small, hands-on firm. Its designers have more than 40 years experience leading volunteers in the design and construction of community-built playgrounds. Belmont residents who took part in original Joey’s Park community build describe the experience as “life changing”.
  • Design Day is scheduled for Wednesday, September 20 at the Winn Brook Elementary School. A similar event was held 23 years ago leading up to the construction of the original Joey’s Park.