Junior League restarts project to redesign Julianne’s Playground as school district adds new equipment


Existing equipment at Julianne’s Playground as the Pelham school district began this week installing new play structures, in what is the first part of a project the Junior League will carry forward in one to two years.

The beloved Pelham community space Julianne’s Playground was last updated in 1999 and is badly in need of a refresh.

The Junior League of Pelham has taken on the project of redesigning the park in a way that “is going to create a space for all ages—young kids, older kids, high school kids, as well as adults and the elderly,” said Junior League President-elect Amy Platt. “It will be a place of community, and I think that’s what’s so amazing about the project.”

The park is owned by the Pelham school district, and the Junior League is working with school officials on the effort. In fact, the district is installing new play equipment there this week, following complaints last spring about damaged structures, including one slide that had to be taped off to block use.

The Junior League project team is looking at possible additions that would include space for scout activities, a small platform or amphitheater, an exercise area, places for seniors and older kids, a play area for very small children and a renovated blacktop including boundary lines for various sports. Some of the sections will likely be divided by fencing, and more seating will be added around the park, including both benches and picnic tables.

In addition to a delay caused by the pandemic, fundraising and pursuing grant sources for the renovation, as well as coordinating with the school district on construction timing and the use of the playground for Hutchinson Elementary School’s recess have prevented the Junior League from putting a hard date on the completion of the project, which was originally unveiled in 2019. They hope the plans will be finalized and construction can begin within the next year or two.

Julianne’s Playground, once known as 6th Street Park, is named after Julianne Borsella, a young girl who passed away from Ewing’s sarcoma when she was eight years old. After she died, the Pelham community came together and rallied around the Borsella family in their time of need to create the park in honor of Julianne.

The Junior League works on a signature project every five to eight years. The playground redesign was originally presented as such a project to the community in 2019, with an architectural rendering displayed in November of that year. But the plans were derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced the organization to stop fundraising for the project in order to focus on efforts to provide support to first responders and families in need.

An old climbing structure lay in pieces at Julianne’s Playground, which is owned by the school system. The district is installing new equipment over the next two weeks.


With the crisis past, the revitalization of the park is moving forward under the leadership of Platt, Junior League President Aileen Dose and project co-chairs Alicia Washburn and Amy Rios. Rios was a member of the project team in 2019 and is thrilled to be a co-chair this year.

One of the original goals of the project was to transition the space from a playground to be more of a community park to encourage people to come and use the space to connect with one another,” said Rios.

Added Washburn, “I’m really excited about this project. Amy Rios and I have had a lot of time to think about what’s happening with the park design and are excited to see it really take fruition.”

The new design of Julianne’s Playground includes feedback from the residents closest to the space in order to blend the design comfortably into the neighborhood.

The Junior League also has been working in close contact with the school district to ensure the park fits the needs of the community. The new equipment being installed this week became available after Hutchinson Principal Dr. Trisha Fitzgerald selected the play structure for use on the new school building’s playground, but the location where it was set to be installed was too rocky. The district looked at locations at the other three elementary schools, but could not find a space that would work.

New equipment awaits assembly at Julianne’s Playground.

Instead, Pelham schools began installing the equipment at Julianne’s Playground on Tuesday. (The playground will be closed for two weeks to complete the work. During this time, the tennis/pickleball courts will remain open.)

“This new equipment will be a fantastic addition to a park that is used by so many families in our community,” said the district in an email. “The installation of new playground equipment is just the first component of an exciting renovation of Julianne’s Playground being planned in coordination with the Junior League of Pelham.”

The Junior League team is grateful for the partnership with the school district administration. “Their partnership has enabled us to facilitate projects and make sure all kids at Pelham have access to this equipment,” said Dose.

After the completion of the Junior League work, maintenance will be the responsibility of the school district, while programming will be controlled by the Town of Pelham Recreation Department. The Junior League and school district leaders have been in close contact as they work through the final design to make sure it is a space the school system can maintain.

The playground project will be paid for by Junior League fundraisers such as the spring gala on April 22. Donations are welcome, and pending the final design, sponsorship opportunities will be open where benches and other equipment will be available for dedication to a loved one.

The effort “represents the best of Pelham,” said Dose. “We live in a community where everyone cares so much about all our kids, and to be able to take part in creating a space that’s welcoming, safe and fun is wonderful in and of itself.” 

Follow this link to donate to the Junior League.