If you're a parent with young children in Jamaica Plain you probably know about the Brewer Street Tot Lot.
It's a great playground with swings, a bouncy seesaw, a structure with slides, benches and tables, and even a permanent sandbox. Before the pandemic, it was full of toys dropped off by community members, but after a public health emergency was declared, the city removed the toys.
Seeing the toys be removed was hard for parents to see, particularly the beloved roller cars and tracks. As time went on during the last two years, parents wondered when would the city allow toys to be brought back by residents.
Some parents did bring toys to the tot lot, but the city's policy was that non-Boston Parks and Recreation toys needed to be removed from playgrounds, and maintenance employees would remove the toys, according to city officials.
Local parent Michael Cohen, who organized a community-funded replacement of the roller cars and tracks back in 2018 after they were no longer in good condition, reached out to the city in mid-March, asking if he could put new roller cars and tracks at the lot. He was given permission, so he and fellow parent Greg Brodsky, purchased brand new roller cars and tracks.
"I love our JP community, the tot lot and the joy of the children playing with all the toys there. Greg and I purchasing these in service of both was simply a no brainer," said Cohen.
Cohen told Jamaica Plain News that after he purchased the new roller cars he reached out to the Parks and Recreation Department to confirm he could put the toys on the lot, which he did early April. Then came word that the toys had been placed out with the trash on April 14. Word got out that day that the new toys were by the trash, and a parent quickly went over to pull them back onto the lot.
Cohen did receive word from the city that the toys had to go, and he was given time to remove them, and told they would not be placed on the curb with the trash.
But that's not the last of the toys at the tot lot. A Parks and Recreation official told Jamaica Plain News that they are working with park users to find a solution where users would be responsible for care and custody of community toys. That would include removing hazardous toys, and keeping an eye on the volume of toys and their condition. A community meeting is not planned as Parks and Rec officials work with parents like Cohen to figure out the best way to have toys back at the lot.