Junior League’s plans for Julianne’s Playground: Lawn space for blacktop, student-funded basketball hoop

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Junior League’s plans for Julianne’s Playground: Lawn space for blacktop, student-funded basketball hoop

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The Junior League of Pelham, which is in the planning phase of its project to revitalize Julianne’s Playground between Third and Fourth avenues in Pelville, is considering replacing the blacktop area with green space and adding fitness equipment and a basketball hoop. 

Junior League President Lisa Horten said, “This year is a planning year for the Julianne’s project.” While Pelham residents should not expect physical renovations until the summer of 2022, after the completion of the new Hutchinson School, Horten said, “We’ve been meeting with our landscape architect, introducing the project to the community and soliciting their input and setting fundraising goals.”

This project, Horten said, is not just a replacement of playground equipment, although that remains a priority. She said that the Junior League plans to include “at least one usable basketball hoop in the new plans” at the request of a group of passionate Pelham ninth graders who raised money for the cause last year. “We were incredibly impressed with their efforts and are working on helping them see their vision through,” she said. Outside of equipment, Horten said that the plans will address “improvements to the entire surrounding park area.” 

Co-chairwomen and former Junior League board members Lisa Hill-Ries and Kristin Austin are excited to share their aspirations to “turn the park into a destination for everyone in Pelham,” including an effort to convert much of the existing blacktop area into lawn space for “free play, picnicking and just hanging out.”

To appeal to various members of the community, said Hill-Ries and Austin, the new plan includes not only a traditional playground for younger children, but also a “small fitness/climbing area for teens and young adults.” The park’s proximity to Hutchinson School has also inspired discussion of a community garden and an outdoor classroom. Horten said that the Junior League will “work in tandem with the school district to ensure that the current Julianne’s is available for use by Hutchinson students while their school playground is under construction.”

The original playground was built twenty years ago in honor of the late Julianne Borsella, an eight-year-old victim of Ewing’s sarcoma. The Junior League played a significant role in that project, too, and is now taking initiative to ensure that the area maintains a positive impact on the community. Horten said that “the goal is to continue to preserve the memory of this brave girl” and to ensure that Pelham families can enjoy and utilize the space for years to come.

Horten said  Junior League members are working to fundraise locally, explaining that, “the only way this project will be a success is with the support of the Pelham community.” Hill-Ries and Austin said that the bulk of their fundraising efforts will begin this summer, but they are currently reaching out to state and county elected officials for grant money, as well as looking into private grants for funding.