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The Yankee Express

Architect releases final rebuild design for the Fun Zone Playground located at the Dudley Municipal Complex

The current playground in Dudley. Photo submitted

“It’s what the children chose,” was the comment made at a Dudley Recreation Commission meeting on June 18 when Michael Radner of Radner Designs Assoc. presented his firm’s final plan to rebuild the currently shuttered playground. 
They were referring to the April 8 Board of Selectmen meeting where Radner led more than 60 children through creative exercises to express their equipment preferences for the new park. 
The resounding message heard that evening was ‘water, water, water!’ And with this, a splash pad was built into the plan. 
With the preliminary work done and the plan set, Town Administrator Jonathan Ruda and Town Planner William Scanlon met with the Recreation Commission June 18 to place in its care the next steps through to the grand reopening. 
The town recently updated its open space plan which made it eligible for the state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant. 
With the completed design plan in hand, the town is working with the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) to submit its grant application by the July 11 deadline. 
The PARC Program was established to assist cities and towns in acquiring and developing land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. These grants can be used by municipalities to acquire parkland, build a new park, or to renovate an existing park. 
PARC is a reimbursement grant of up to 70 percent of the total construction cost, which is projected at $614,911. If the grant is awarded, fall town meeting voters would be asked to authorize the borrowing of nearly the full project cost. Also at the fall town meeting, town officials are expected to present a plan for how the town would fund the $150,000 to $200,000 local match. 
The Fun Zone playground was updated around the time the old school building at 71 West Main Street was renovated into today’s Dudley Municipal Complex, circa 2005. 
It was closed early in the COVID-19 pandemic. When it reopened, visible damage, such as cracked equipment and a deteriorating surface material caused its permanent closure. 
At the May 2022 town meeting, voters passed over an article to borrow $380,000 to rebuild the playground. 
The Dudley Woman’s Club undertook a community fundraiser from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, to help get the rebuild project off the ground. The DWC raised $41,390. The town used this donation to pay $12,600 to Radner Designs in May 2023 to develop three conceptual plans for the playground and surrounding space. Those three plans were displayed in the town hall lobby for several months with ballots for residents to vote for their favorite design. 
The town paid $5,400 to Radner Designs in March 2024 to fashion the highest vote getter into a preliminary rebuild plan, which was presented at the April 8 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. The remaining DWC donation of $23,390 will go toward the rebuild. 
Administrator Ruda told members of the Recreation Commission that the town must meet the present building code, safety, accessibility and adaptability standards in the rebuild. 
Mr. Radner told the commission that if the grant is awarded and town meeting authorizes the borrowing this fall, he anticipates a spring 2025 groundbreaking with a target of opening to the public in the fall of 2025. 
The final plan detailed at the June 18 Recreation Commission meeting here: