UPDATE: We will be holding two community discussions regarding the park design in November. Please join us to share your thoughts and hear what others are saying about the park.

Tuesday, 13 November, 2:30-4:00 PM in the Winn Brook gymnasium
Thursday, 15 November, 7:00-8:30 PM in the Winn Brook cafeteria
Or send your comments to feedback@joeyspark.org


September 20 marked a major milestone on the path to a new Joey’s Park with the completion of Design Day. Architects from Play by Design came in the night before to review the results of our Community Input Survey and then spent the next day speaking with Winn Brook school students about their ideas for the playground. We capped off the day with a presentation to the community showing an initial sketch and some highlights of the new park.

Since design day, the architects have been hard at work refining the design. We are still early in the process, so now is a great time for you to tell us what you think. You can see a high resolution version of the current design by clicking on the image at the top of this page.


kidart wide

Playground architect John Dean has a great job. He asks kids what they want in their playground. When he showed up at the Winn Brook Elementary School in September of 2012, the 450 students gave him an excited earful: zip line, curvy slide, hiding places. Of course, not every idea made it into the final blueprint: think jello floors and a hot tub. The kids’ input, however, is at the heart of the new Joey’s Park design. They watched while Dean sketched out the first ideas. They brought their parents to see the initial plan unveiled in the Winn Brook gym. Best of all, they’ll soon be playing on the park they helped design.

The day started early with a preliminary meeting at the park. Friends of Joey’s Park Committee members met with the designers to review the site and to highlight best and worst elements from the park today.

Designers with Committee1

Reviewing Equipment

Next, the designers spent the morning visiting with each class at Winn Brook Elementary, talking to students about the process and recording their ideas and suggestions.




Reporter Amalia Barreda of WCVB 5 News came with a crew to observe the proceedings. She interviewed both current students, and also Joey’s childhood friends, Tim Brodigan and Jane MacKinnon (née Flavin).

Amalia Barreda Interviews Children

Amalia Barreda Interviews Friends

After a quick lunch, the designers took advantage of beautiful weather to sit outside in view of the park and sketch out new ideas. Children at recess were naturally drawn to this part of the process.


By dinnertime, the preliminary design was finished. Over pizza and salad, the designers reviewed highlights with the Committee and discussed the town presentation that would take place shortly thereafter.

Designers with Committee2

Following on the heels of a PTA ice cream social, the town presentation drew quite a crowd.


Here it is — the preliminary design that resulted from the day’s efforts.


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.

Walk for Belmont logo

Join us Sunday, October 14!

The 2-mile pledge walk begins and ends at Joey’s Park. Bring your kids, tell your neighbors, create a team — from students to seniors, everyone is welcome. Sign up at walk.joeyspark.org.

Walking for Joey’s Park is a Belmont tradition. Twenty-five years ago the community came out for a series of walkathons to raise money for the original Joey’s Park. Check out the pictures from the original, and let us know if you recognize anyone.

Belmont Partners in Play is a new community group is organizing this year’s walk. You can learn more about Belmont Partners in Play at belmontpartnersinplay.org.

Click here to register as a walk participant or to donate.