Marblehead playgrounds in the spotlight

Marblehead’s Frankie Spiris spins around at Hobbs Playground. Photo by Libby O'Neill

With the recent rebuilding of Hobbs Playground, one might wonder what makes each Marblehead playground unique, and which features set them apart.

Regardless of the fact that all playgrounds serve the same purpose, and many of them have similar equipment and layouts, you may be surprised to hear the reasons why a specific playground in town is a parent-favorite. The features that set each playground apart are, impressively, quite diverse.

Hobbs Playground, located on the corner of Brook Road and Ware Lane is now the newest playground in Marblehead, The rebuilding was made possible by the Marblehead Family Fund, a nonprofit organization created by moms working full-time who desired better recreational spaces for their children to enjoy and grow in.

The biggest attribute that sets Hobbs apart from other playgrounds is its inclusivity. Not only is it accessible to people with disabilities, but while the target age is 2 to 5, Hobbs welcomes and is able to be played on by children of all ages; even adults can enjoy a number of swings and other pieces of equipment.

The materials alone set it apart as well. The PebbleFlex surfacing is state-of-the-art and a necessary change from the previous wood-chip surface. Its cushioned layer is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled material and the pebbles are made from 20 percent post-industrial recycled material. The new surface is safe, durable, and allows for easy access for wheelchairs and walkers. It is also UV- and climate-resistant.

Just two weeks ago, Marblehead Family Fund recognized the donors whose contributions made the vision of Hobbs Playground a reality, including Marblehead Recreation & Parks, the Marblehead Rotary Club, The Mottola Family. It also received a Municipal Americans with Disabilities Act Improvement Grant that was put toward the purchase of accessible equipment.

“Overall, we received close to 300 donations from the Marblehead community! Prior to the capital campaign, we had been working with our partners at O’Brien & Sons to establish a plan and a layout for the proposed structure, given the current Hobbs footprint,” said Meghan Tosto, co-chair of the Marblehead Family Fund Board.

The dated playground, which was believed to have been built over 40 years ago, cost around $300,000 to rebuild. Donors ranged from individuals and families around town to local affiliate groups, sports teams, businesses, and foundations — really, the whole Marblehead community chipped in.

“Once we locked down the plan in late 2019, we had a target to raise for our capital campaign starting in 2020. That said, the pandemic obviously had an impact on our fundraising as well as the project budget. Subsequent supply chain issues raised pricing, so our fundraising goal increased by 10 percent. Luckily, by the time that happened, we were close enough to our goal that O’Brien & Sons agreed to lock-in our pricing under the assumption we would have all funds raised within the next few months. We had faith in the Marblehead community that you would help us get there, and you delivered!” Tosto said.

“We couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Seeing kids from all over the community, with all kinds of abilities enjoying the equipment and making memories on a daily basis was our goal,” said Laney Dowling, co-chair of the Marblehead Family Fund Board.

Parents love Hobbs Playground as well.

“This playground is closer to my house,” said Marbleheader Regina Brown. “And it’s nice because it’s new!”

Some parents, however, expressed loyalty to other playgrounds in town. Everleth Park, located on Ware Lane, is a favorite of Brett Ely, who has a 3-year-old daughter.

“She loves the slides,” Ely said.” It’s a little quieter here. It just gets overwhelming at the other slides.”

Diego Navarro is a fan of Gerry Playground, located on Stramski Way.

“It’s nice because it’s in the shade,” he said. “And there’s a treasure walk, a beach for the kids.”

Gatchell Playground on Lafayette Street is Dirk Martin’s preferred playground.

“Little kids use this playground while they are waiting for their big brothers to finish playing baseball,” he said.

While each playground is unique, they all have one thing in common: They exist for kids to get outside, interact with each other, learn, grow, and have fun.