What’s going on with Joey’s Park?

Joey’s Park continues to be a unique and magical playground, but it needs help. You may remember last November Joey’s Park was shut down after it failed a safety inspection. Belmont’s Department of Public Works made repairs and asked the Winn Brook PTA to form a committee to look into future options for Joey’s Park. That committee is called the Friends of Joey’s Park. Right now we are seeking input from people who care about the park.

So is Joey’s Park safe for kids to play in?

The DPW addressed a fairly long list of safety concerns – boarding up areas where kids could become entrapped and removing several features that were broken or no longer up to code (such as the fire pole). These repairs, however, are only a temporary solution.

How old is Joey’s Park?

Joey’s park was built in 1989. The manufacturer, Leathers and Associates, says the park was built to last for 20 years. One reason it may have lasted beyond its expected lifetime: the DPW for years has been coating the surface of the pressurized wood with a special varnish. Along with preventing toxins from seeping out of the wood, the varnish may have also helped preserve the structure itself.

Will the park be rehabilitated or replaced?

The Friends of Joey’s Park will explore both options. If the park is rehabilitated, we will also have to comply with new Americans with Disabilities Act standards. We will look at cost and life expectancy of a rehabilitated park and compare it to the cost and life expectancy of a brand new park.

Who is the Joey of Joey’s Park?

The park was built in memory of Joey O’Donnell. Joey lived a full life while battling an incurable disease: cystic fibrosis. He attended the Winn Brook Elementary School and was a student at the Chenery Middle School when died at the age of 12. His peers came up with the idea of playground, private citizens made contributions big and small and the whole community came together for a massive “community build”. The result is the play structure we have today that honors Joey’s life and spirit.

Are Joey’s parents involved with the Friends of Joey’s Park?

Yes. Joey’s parents, Joe and Kathy O’Donnell, are honorary members of the Friends of Joey’s Park committee.

Who will approve the final plan for either a rehabilitated or brand new Joey’s Park?

The park is on town land, so the Board of Selectmen will have final approval.

Will the town pay for improvements to Joey’s Park?

It’s not clear at this time how much money will be needed or how the money will be raised. We expect to seek contributions from both public and private sources.

What would a new Joey’s Park look like?

The Friends of Joey’s Park will seek wide input to get a sense of what the community wants and what designs are possible. We have already heard from a number of people who have expressed a desire to either keep or recreate the playground’s castle-like feel. We invite anyone who is interested in the future of the playground to join the Friends of Joey’s Park.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an inherited genetic disorder which causes mucus-like secretions in the lungs and other organs. First identified in the 1930’s, CF used to be a death sentence for infants, with a median survival age of six months. Although there is no cure, advances in medicine today allow many CF patients to live to adulthood.

Among Caucasian populations, one in twenty-five individuals carries a recessive genetic mutation which causes CF. Children born with CF struggle to breathe, and will struggle with severe lung infections during their lifetime. Treatments include antibiotics to fight infections and the use of respirators to assist breathing. Later in life, CF patients often require lung transports to survive.

Although a few thousand infants are born with CF each year, it is not common enough to be a major focus for pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Subsequently, many of the recent advances in treatment have come as the result of research funded by private grants and donations. Organizations such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation are key to this effort.