Fate of play train unknown
Rowan Talbot-Guerette 9, and Gregory Kelly-Licciardi climb on the train play structure during a visit to the Energy Park in Greenfield Easter Sunday
GREENFIELD — The fate of the wooden train engine play structure at the Energy Park on Miles Street, which has been used by many children over the past 15 years or so, is up in the air.
Town officials no longer feel it is safe enough to be used by young children and are looking at options, including replacing the train, which has two cars and a caboose.
Christy Moore, the town’s recreation director, said the town would like to maintain a “train motif” play structure, but is not yet sure whether the train will be repaired or replaced. The park, which is situated on the site of town’s one-time passenger rail station, was built around the dual themes of energy and transportation, two elements of Greenfield’s heritage.
Moore said the current train does not meet National Recreation and Parks Association playground safety and inspection standards.
“I will be asking for money in the capital budget next year to do something about the train,” said Moore, who said she filled out a playground inspection report and has sent it to the town’s public works department for review. She would not say why the train does not meet standards, but instead said that she would like the town’s public works department to review her report first.
Moore said she isn’t sure yet what the cost of replacing the wooden train would be.
Mayor William Martin said he just learned about the condition of the wooden train this week, so would like to do more research before commenting.
It is not clear how old the train is, but some say it appeared not long after the park was built in 1997.
The train station was demolished in the early 1960s, long after it was closed. There is also a Boston and Maine railroad caboose on the property, which is currently used as a museum display.
The Energy Park, which was developed in cooperation with the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, based at the park, hosts 30 to 40 events each year and during those events, as well as most days when the weather is good, young children play on the train.
NESEA Building Energy Director Mary Biddle said she sees children playing on the structure every day that the weather is good throughout the spring, summer and fall.
“I really hope the town finds a way to replace it with something similar,” said Biddle. “The children absolutely love that train. It brings them a lot of joy.”
Biddle said she’d love to see local businesses and residents step up and either donate money, materials or time to make sure a similar structure replaces the current one.
Arthur Baker, the town’s public works director, said he recently received Moore’s report and will look into the matter. He said public works did some repairs on the wooden play train this past summer.
“I’ll have a better idea about things after the holidays,” said Baker.
Earlier this week, Alfred Dray of Deerfield, the volunteer who has spent years cleaning up the town’s parks and neglected areas, wrote a letter to the editor reprimanding the town for even thinking about replacing the “so-much-loved little kids’ play train.”
Dray said the train should not be considered as “hard-hitting grade-school playground” equipment and therefore should not be held to the standards of such.
He called the train an “educational, all-aboard play train,” which with parental supervision simply gives young children an opportunity to learn about the town’s transportation history.
Town officials said they will discuss the matter and some options after the holidays.