‘This is a great day for Portsmouth!’

Hundreds turn out for grand opening of Portsmouth Community Playground

By Jim McGaw
Posted 6/3/24

PORTSMOUTH — As she looked over at all the young tykes climbing, sliding, swinging and running from station to station at the new Portsmouth Community Playground Saturday, Kateri Chappell …

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‘This is a great day for Portsmouth!’

Hundreds turn out for grand opening of Portsmouth Community Playground


PORTSMOUTH — As she looked over at all the young tykes climbing, sliding, swinging and running from station to station at the new Portsmouth Community Playground Saturday, Kateri Chappell Buerman was asked whether it all lived up to her expectations.

“It’s better than I ever imagined,” said the leader of the Four Hearts Foundation, which started fund-raising for the large-scale, inclusive and adaptive playground more than two years ago. The nonprofit organization raised more than $800,000 for the park.

“Obviously, the design is exactly what we thought it would be, because we picked it out, but seeing all these people here today is so exciting. The whole community built it. There are kids here today who had lemonade stands and gave us money. There are kids here today who gave us their piggy banks. So many local businesses donated their time for all kinds of things. To me that’s the coolest part — the community came together and did it together.”

Hundreds turned out for the opening party, with cars lined up along Turnpike Avenue and nearby Dexter Street. Others took advantage of the free shuttle service provided by Newport Trolley from the high school to the playground. Imagination Library and the Bazarsky family sponsored the trolley rides as well as snacks for the occasion.

The new playground replaces one that was designed by Robert Leathers and built by community members in 1988. “The playground that was here when I was little was wooden. It was really cool; that’s kind of why we put those peaks in there, because it reminded us of the old playground,” Buerman said.

Visitors on Saturday, however, were bowled over by the variety, inclusiveness and safety of the new playground, which has a soft rubber flooring rather than the mulch of its predecessor. "This is a great day for Portsmouth!" was uttered more than a few times.

“We’ve been to a lot of playgrounds, but this one is as nice as any of them. I love the road around the outside, too,” said Michael Mineau, who was there with his daughter Violet, 6.

Indeed, the outside road — or track — impressed many. 

“Selfishly I put that in, trying to apply for grants,” Buerman explained. “There are a lot of grants out there for childhood obesity — moving more and getting outside. It ended up actually being my favorite part. It’s 11 laps to a mile.”

One of the youngest visitors Saturday was Teddy Ressler, just 5 months old. He was fast asleep in a stroller being pushed around the track by his mom, Katrina Ressler, and his grandmother, Teresa Salk. 

“This is amazing,” said Salk. “I am mesmerized, and I love the fact that they put a gate up, so the kids are confined to this area. It also brings a sense of community. You’re going to meet a lot of people here now — young couples, children, grandmas.”

Derek Amaral was pushing his smiling daughter Leanae, 6, on one of the swings that abuts the field at the far end of the playground. 

“I work at A-1 Paving, and we just painted the handicapped spaces. I live in New Bedford and seeing this while I was working, I said I have to bring my daughter here,” said Amaral, whose father, Frank Medeiros, was the crew’s foreman.

“Literally, 9 o’clock Thursday night is when they finished,” added Buerman. “We were here cleaning and doing all kinds of stuff.”

Adaptive play areas

As for the swing sets, there’s also a “Friendship Swing” that’s designed so two youngsters can face each other as they rock back and forth. 

“For kids who have autism or what have you, they can look at each other. They’re working on eye contact in a fun way,” Buerman said. “There are also little trampoline things underneath so kids who get overstimulated can go and sit and come back when they’re ready. The roller rubber slide is good for kids who have hearing aids. They can lose their hearing for up to 10 minutes if they use a regular slide, which can cause static.”

Everything, she noted, “was built for a reason.”

Meg Ramos teaches science at Portsmouth Middle School, so she knew a lot of the children and their parents who were enjoying the playground.

“We are so happy to have it,” said Ramos, who was chasing her 3-year-old son Ellis around. “It’s such a labor of love. It’s so exciting to see kids outside playing in Portsmouth, because we don’t have a lot of that here. And we have such great parents in this town, so this gives us a chance to be together.”

Community made it happen

As he gave his 3-year-old daughter Liana a push on the zip line, Jethro Tannis remarked on the way the playground was finally realized.

“I think the coolest part is that the community pitched in and built this together,” he said.

Buerman agreed. 

“We just love seeing it all come together. The way the old one was built was done in similar fashion. The guy who helped me do the walkway, which they also donated, his dad worked on the first one. I think people feel such a sense of pride being here, because they helped,” she said.

The Portsmouth Community Playground is open from dawn to dusk. The Four Hearts Foundation can be reached by e-mailing Fourheartsfoundation4@gmail.com, or visiting https://fourheartsfoundation.com.

Four Hearts Foundation, Portsmouth Community Playground

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.