Littleton Independent: Funding secured for Littleton playground: Castle in the Trees

LITTLETON– State Rep. James Arciero and State Sen. Jamie Eldridge were invited to the Littleton Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 10 as a gesture of gratitude after successfully overriding a veto by Gov. Charlie Baker for $100,000 in funding earmarked for the reconstruction of the town’s Castle in the Trees playground.

“We are beyond thrilled that the $100,000 for Castle in the Trees Playground came through,” said Littleton Children’s Fund treasurer Kristi Bates, “Thanks to the $100,000 from the state, and the generous donation of Cataldo Landscaping to clear and prepare the site, we are almost two-thirds of the way to our $300,000 goal.”

The state funding was included in an amendment to the Massachusetts fiscal 2016 state budget, which began July 1, and was filed and passed in both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the State Senate before Baker’s veto.

The override vote guaranteed the funding.

“We have that assurance. We did have to take an override vote, but (we) really realized what a difference playgrounds make in every community and it’s really about quality of life,” Eldridge said.

At the selectmen’s meeting, both Littleton legislators credited the successful funding to the spirit of cooperation.

“We were able to put something together in legislative form and I got my job done in the House, the senator got his done in the Senate,” Arciero said.

The Castle in the Trees playground was built in 1991, but has since outlived its lifespan due to rising maintenance costs and safety concerns.

The Rebuild Castle Committee was formed in October 2014 to prevent the closure of Castle in the Trees and to raise funds to rebuild the playground.

“Castle in the Trees Playground is an iconic place in Littleton and this funding will help preserve that status for future generations,” said Bates.

The playground’s value on the community was not lost to the Littleton legislators.

“This is a labor of love and certainly a team effort,” Arciero said, “Each and every one of us that are in the elected boards, we really care very much about public service, but we care about making our community a better place as well.”

The new Castle in the Trees playground has a projected build date of September 2016, according to Bates.

Many volunteers will be needed in the community build, just like when hundreds of volunteers gathered in 1991 for a five-day period to build the original Castle in the Trees, she added.

“Now another generation of volunteers are hoping to recreate the success of their predecessors,” Bates said.

The Littleton Park and Recreation Commission recently completed a large project to renovate the park surrounding the playground, adding a new parking lot, basketball courts, a walking path, and a portable restroom, according to Bates.

“I know this board and so many residents of Littleton have been working dramatically to improve the quality of life here in Littleton,” Eldridge said at the meeting.

The Littleton Children’s Fund is raising funds to rebuild the playground through private and business donations, various volunteer-run events and the sale of personalized fence pickets, according to Bates.

The next fundraiser is a “Golf Outing and Banquet” at the Shaker Hills Country Club in Harvard on Sept. 25.

“(We) came up with the number of $300,000, which seems unbelievably daunting to try to raise, but the playground is worth it,” Bates said, “It is a symbol of what Littleton is made of: ‘Perseverance. Loyalty. Big hearts.’”

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