Putting Johnston's Memorial Park into overdrive


Big changes are in the works at Johnston’s War Memorial Park.

Several sections of the park are currently off-limits for visitors, as the pace of playground and splash pad construction quickens through the spring, possibly in time for summer.

The town recently announced the closure of a playground in the park. Soon, the park’s available play equipment will cater to a wider audience. Mayor Joseph Polisena Jr. worked with Johnston State Rep. Deborah A. Fellela (District 43) and members of Town Council in his efforts to revive Johnston’s central recreation hub.

The playground project is just one piece of a full park overhaul, which started in October when the town welcomed the arrival of Providence’s former Christopher Columbus statue (now erected in the center of the Memorial Park pond island).

“In a collaborative effort between myself, the council and Rep. Felella, the town is renovating and expanding the playground at the park to make it ADA accessible,” according to Polisena. “The existing equipment will stay, but we are adding ADA-compliant equipment for children with sensory processing disorders and children with physical disabilities.”

The mayor hopes older age groups also benefit from the new equipment.

“The new rides will … allow seniors to engage with their young family members as well,” he said.

Paying For It

The cost of the renovated playground will be covered by a combination of donations and the town’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“Lastly, we are adding a rubber surface to the entire playground,” Polisena explained. “The total cost is $297,000, with $100,000 being generously donated by the Greico Automotive Group and the remaining $197,000 covered through federal ARPA funds. We are hopeful for it to open by the beginning of summer.”

Meanwhile, while construction is ongoing, town officials are asking the public for patience and cooperation.

“Starting today, the playground at Johnston Memorial Park will be temporarily closed for construction,” the town posted on social media last week. “We're thrilled to announce that we're expanding and making enhancements to create a new, handicapped-accessible playground! The expansion and ADA accessible equipment will allow for both more children and even seniors accompanying their young family members to use the playground.”

According to the post, the town anticipates “reopening (the playground) in June,” and asked park-goers to “refrain from entering the playground area.”

Making A Splash

Plans call for siting the park’s new splash pad near the tank, overtop the disused and neglected senior bocce courts. According to town estimates from last summer, that project was expected to cost around $300,000 and would also be paid for with ARPA funds.

The mayor and Director of Johnston’s Buildings & Grounds Department Christopher M. Correia told Town Council the 50-by-70-foot oasis will include five above ground spray features, nine ground sprays, perimeter fencing and walkways, as well as a splash-free area for guardians.

Polisena said, “barring any setbacks,” the splash pad should be ready by “some point in July or August.”

Booze, Too

Last week, Town Council held a public hearing to consider allowing vendors to sell beer and wine at food truck events in the park. Last year, council amended the town’s food truck ordinance to clear the way for large-scale food truck events. Several successful events followed throughout the summer.

This year, attendees will be able to buy an alcoholic beverage with their meal.

“We return to the lush landscapes of Johnston Memorial Park for our second year,” according to an events page created on Facebook for the upcoming events. “This year you can find us on select Thursdays and Saturdays for evening delights. New for 2024 now featuring the edition of beer and wine to elevate your experience. Immerse yourself in the friendly atmosphere of our food truck gatherings, enhanced with the smooth notes of live music. Celebrate the summer evenings with us, where great eats, chilled drinks, and the warmth of community spirit blend into the perfect recipe for unforgettable summer nights.”


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