The vision to create a nature-themed playground in the middle of downtown Pelham has been realized. Working closely with the Village of Pelham, the Junior League of Pelham navigated policies, design and fundraisers to bring its most recent Signature Project, Woodland Park, to life. Over five years in the works, the playground has benefitted from the involvement of numerous Village Mayors, Village Trustees and countless JLP volunteers. Current JLP President Melissa Mulrooney Deighton expressed excitement and gratitude at achieving this milestone: “We are very excited about the opening of the Woodland Park and it is a wonderful way to celebrate our 75th year of serving the Pelham community. This project has truly been a community wide effort and the JLP sincerely thanks everyone who provided vital support to the park”.
Beginning in 2011, spearheaded by Community Outreach VP, Aisling Bier, and Research & Development Chairs, Lisa Koonce and Patricia O’Bryne, the Village and the JLP began to conceptualize a new playground in Wolfs Lane Park that would serve the downtown area all day, bringing people into town and providing a much-needed recreational destination to residents. Together they put forth several proposals to the JLP and we voted on the “Children’s Adventure Park”. The proposed playground would serve as a place for residents to gather and for children to meet-up and play, and would be one component of a larger master plan to improve Wolfs Lane Park, which is ongoing. Further, it was hoped the playground would increase foot traffic and ultimately help nearby family-friendly retailers. A Memorandum of Understanding was entered into between the Village and the JLP on June 6, 2012.
Recognizing the significance of Wolfs Lane Park as a major component of the green space in Pelham, the idea of creating a nature-based play space began to take shape. Under the guidance of Zoe Klein Henriquez and Aisling Bier, Signature Project co-chairs in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the unique design of the park and lengthy approval discussions were completed. The Signature Project team engaged nature-based play space design expert Fred Martin of Environment Design LLC, well known in the area for his playground designs at the Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale and the Stamford Nature Center, to design the park. His unique design encompassed elements such as a grass maze, a log and stump climbing structure, a leaf pile stage, a squirrel’s nest hideout and climbing structure and a hill slide. Meanwhile, the Trustees of the Village of Pelham held numerous meetings on the subject to ensure that the public was well-informed, that all issues had been reviewed satisfactorily and that the design met safety and insurance requirements. The project benefitted greatly from the role of Susan Mutti, Village Trustee and JLP Sustainer, and her guidance through the Village’s processes. “We are thrilled to have completed this long awaited project with the JLP. The playground is a critical part of our redesign of Wolfs Lane Park to better utilize the space for the benefit of residents and visitors as well as Pelham businesses. We appreciate the generosity and extended effort of the JLP on this signature project.”
Once the major hurdles had been cleared, 2014-2015 JLP President Jessica DeDomenico and 2014-2015 Signature Project co-chairs, Xaira Ferrara and Liz Perreten, began the fundraising campaign. Kicked off with Light Up Pelham in December 2014, the campaign held various events, including the great, snowy “Pelham Music Night” featuring incredibly talented local musicians, and received tremendous support both from JLP members and community residents. The Woodland Park received critical support from the following select group of Founders’ Circle donors who donated $5,000 or more to the project: Zoe Henriquez/The Klein Family, The DeCicco Family, Michael and Doreen DeDomenico and Family, McClellan Sotheby’s International Realty, Meridian Risk Management & Joan Solimine Real Estate, and Pelham Preservation & Garden Society.
Finally, with the funding, approvals and design in place, the Woodland Park groundbreaking was held on May 12, 2015. Construction and planting were completed, and on July 24, 2015, Woodland Park opened to the public and the first kids went down the slide! The park has instantly become a destination for families with young kids to meet up and for kids to play outside and engage with their natural surroundings.
Woodland Park is the most recent addition to the list of JLP’s Signature Projects completed in Pelham. Past Signature Projects include the Martha Emmons Weihman Memorial Park Restoration Project (completed in 2009), the Lanterns of Pelham Project (completed in 2001) and Julianne’s Playground on Sixth Street (completed in 1999). The JLP looks forward to seeing children and their families enjoying the Woodland Park for many years to come.