Deliberately ‘a little undone’

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It’s unusual that a new community project root and flourish quickly. Often there are mistakes, rethinking and disappointments. So when one does go well, it’s a chance for us all to look and learn from how it went right.

The old playground at the Warwick Community Center was declared dangerous a few years ago. The beautiful, extensive and expensive Stanley Deming Playground redo was happening just a short walk away. A broad group of local people got into the discussion and action: architects, naturalists, artists, teen groups, parents, the Bellvale Community, contractors, landscapers and Grace Community Church. It was a safe out-of-the-bubble experience at a testy time in politics.

They settled on a low-key, nature-based approach tying in with the orchard and community garden already on the five acres. “Loose Parts” was the theme: just a lot of interesting natural materials. One mother says she can sense when her five-year old needs the ambling quiet of the 3 Pines Nature Place or the other energy of the more equipped park.

One advantage of so many hands involved is that there was not just one vision. Ideas shifted a bit as particular people came to help out. It created a kind of organic ambiguity that may look a little undone. But there’s a power in that. It invites visitors to pick and choose and find their own joy of the day. As one young boy shouted: “Dad, they don’t tell you what to do!”

An anonymous local $25K donation put a floor under the all-volunteer effort. It paid for a site manager, some materials and other installation. All-volunteer efforts are risky; the mixing in of paid people is crucial. The donation covered a third of the actual costs.

This year’s work is to put in a dry stream bed with various native and bog plants and continue to invite people to enjoy and learn more about local nature through various children’s and adult programs.

April 14 is the next Community Work and Play day. Drop by then or now, or visit

Daniel Mack

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