BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Construction of a $20,000 playground in the rear of the Brown School has begun and should be completed in coming days, city officials say.
The park, located between Milk and Prospect streets, appears to be the result of citizen involvement and prompt municipal action.
When a playground, much of it composed of aging wood, was taken down last spring over concern about safety, parents of school children and adults living in the South End launched an online petition requesting that a replacement playground be constructed.
Proponents collected almost 500 signatures. In addition, they petitioned Mayor Donna Holaday and city councilors to find money to fund new facilities.
Holaday identified $20,000 in the budget for new equipment and city councilors approved an expenditure without delay.
The equipment arrived Tuesday, and installation has begun under the guidance of Lise Reid, parks administrator, and Steve Bergholm, facilities manager for the School Department.
In a related matter, South End activists collected almost 1,200 signatures in recent weeks to put a non-binding measure on the municipal election calling for a retention of open space on Brown School property when the building is closed in June.
City Clerk Richard Jones yesterday said his office is currently validating those signatures.
He said there must be 1,056 valid names and signatures to qualify for the ballot, based on a calculation of 8 percent of the city’s 13,207 registered voters.