The Evolution of the Marshall Square Park Playground
By: Chantale Fieldhouse, Playground Committee Chair
In the summer of 2016, I spent a lot of time in Marshall Square Park with my daughters and our friends. We loved the old playground and how shaded the park was. In the spring of 2017, the new playground was opened up and we were very excited. Unfortunately, on our first visit to the new playground with assistance from me, Adelaide, who was 3 years old at the time and was an advanced climber for her age, fell. Thankfully she was not injured from this fall.
That summer I noticed that our friends were no longer going to Marshall Square Park and I started asking why. The answer I was told over and over was that the platforms were too high and it no longer fit the needs of their children. The existing playground is built for older children and did not suit the needs of kids under the age of 5.
I noticed while visiting other playgrounds in the area that there was a toddler area (ages 2-5) and a big kid area (ages 5-12). I started asking why didn’t Marshall Square Park have a toddler’s section? I reached out to the Borough of West Chester Parks and Recreation department and the Friends of Marshall Square Park as to why this was and what we could do to add the toddlers structure. I was informed that through research a big kid playground was what was needed for the park. This didn’t sit right with me. All playgrounds should be for all ages and the demographics of an area is always changing.
I then reached out to the manufacturer of the current structure and asked him to design a toddler’s structure that mirrored the current structure (which evolved to adding the outdated swing set as well), so I could present it to the Borough and the Friends group. For the next several years, I was told that it is great, but there just weren’t any funds.
To help raise funds, my daughter Adelaide wanted to have a lemonade stand at our 2019 summer concert series in the park to help raise funds. A local reporter found out about our lemonade stand and wanted to write an article about it. Here is the article: https://www.inquirer.com/business/retail/lemonade-stand-labor-day-summer-playground-park-west-chester-pennsylvania-20190901.html
Through a lot of advocating, the Borough of West Chester added $45,000 to the 2020 budget for the cost of the toddler’s structure, swing set and installation of the structure. The Friends of Marshall Square Park would pay the remainder of the project, which included but not limited to the engineering reports, site preparation and mulch (specific playground grade).
Due to Covid, the playground was delayed in 2020. However, we were still able to keep it in the budget for 2021. Like everything else, the playground is on backorder but is set to be installed in Spring of 2022.
While my girls are now almost 8 and 6 years old and too old for the new structure, knowing that our neighbors around us who have 1–3-year-old children will get many years of use from this structure, makes it all worth it.
I want to thank the Borough of West Chester, the Parks and Recreation and Commission, the Friends of Marshall Square Park group and Pat Loew and the Loew Foundation for making this project happen.