Gorham Parks Director is committed to limitless playground

This schematic rendering of an inclusive playground gives an idea of what Gorham Parks and Recreation Director Jeffrey Stewart would like to see built on a 53- by 67-foot area located on the Gorham Common. (EDITH TUCKER PHOTO)

By Edith Tucker

The Berlin Sun

GORHAM — “Fundraising has already begun that’s directed at creating a playground geared toward inclusivity on the Gorham Common with equipment that’s interesting for those with and without disabilities,” explained Parks and Recreation Director Jeffrey Stewart in the Rec building behind Gorham Town Hall. “We’ve been at it in a low-key way for 4 or 5 months, and we’ve raised a total of $9,834 for a Limitless Playground,” he said.

“The whole project is expected to cost an estimated $70,000, and we expect to raise the money piecemeal. We’d like the first piece — likely a merry-go-round specially designed to accommodate a child’s wheelchair — to be installed in Spring 2020.”

The “we” in this case is the director and a trio of moms who have kids with disabilities who’ve banded together and made common cause.

Trisha Priese of Berlin said she didn’t know that there was playground equipment made on which her youngster could play until she visited someone in Connecticut who took her and her family to an inclusive playground.

“My daughter thought she was in heaven!” Priese recalled. “She was able to move in her wheelchair from one activity to another, which is what most children like to do. She played on a special merry-go-round and on a platform swing.”

After that eye-opening experience, she, Jess Savage of Gorham and Kayla Stewart (no relation) of Berlin began working with Director Stewart.

He consulted a playground designer who has come up with a 53-foot by 67-foot design, complete with a rubberized safety surface.

The trio started raising money themselves, including at a nonprofit table at the Thursday afternoon farmers market.

Other pieces have fallen in place as word has spread.

Diane York, who is an alcohol, drug and other substance abuse counselor at the state Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin, is working with vocational teachers there to have inmates design and build a multi-level sandbox. York Land Services will donate the materials. The Gorham Rotary Club learned about the project, and its members donated $300.

A grant writer from Northern Human Services has offered her writing skills as a hands-on donation. “I’m sure that there will be equipment operators who will donate their expertise when it comes time to install the equipment,” Stewart predicted.

“The nearest inclusive playground in the state is in Nashua,” he explained. “I think we’ll have families coming to Gorham to enjoy this amenity from all over Executive Council District 1, which encompasses half the state.”

The ground-floor bathrooms in the Gorham Town Hall — open 24-7-365 — are handicapped accessible.

Those who would like to donate to this Limitless Playground on the Gorham Common can send their checks to Gorham Parks and Recreation Dept., 33 Exchange Street, Gorham, NH 03581. Questions or comments can be sent by email to jstewart@gorhamnh.org.

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