New tot lot faced ups, downs during its creation

NASHUA – Nashua’s Parks and Recreation Department opened its 29th park since 2000 at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Shattuck Street Tot Lot on Thursday.

Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Nick Caggiano detailed the three-year effort to rehabilitate the park after collaborating with a number of city departments and residents around Shattuck Street.

The Tot Lot’s land came through a donation in the 1920s from the Weston and Simoneau families. The lot, part of a day care started in the 1970s, originally consisted of donated secondhand playground equipment until the day care was closed and converted into neighborhood housing.

In 2005, former Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Gage handled the legislation to make the Shattuck Street lot an official city park, and the city granted $40,000 to revamp it.

Then the Shattuck Street neighborhood got involved with the Parks and Recreation project, holding meetings, donating plants and keeping an eye on the park as it was cleaned and rebuilt into the new and improved children’s playground now standing.

But like many undertakings, Parks and Recreation ran into a little trouble – and a lot of bottles – as it crafted the Tot Lot. An old bottle dump, about two feet into the ground, required help from the solid-waste, street and engineering departments of the Division of Public Works to help clear and refill the remaining hole and complete the rest of the park.

“Every time you start a project you run into some problems,” Caggiano said. His co-workers “don’t even blink, they just show up when I need them.”

“It’s important to remember how things happen. Teamwork makes the community,” Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said about the widespread cooperation for the project. “Now, let’s cut the ribbon and let the kids play in the park.”

Angie Duchesneau, a regular Tot Lot visitor, had brought twin 3-year-old daughters, Halle and Hannah, to enjoy the playground and the warm weather. The twins took a break from sliding to help Lozeau count to three and cut the ribbon opening their new playground.

“We opened it!” they exclaimed as they walked through the entrance gates.

“I think they’re so excited,” Duchesneau said with a smile, pushing her daughters on the swings. “Before (the Tot Lot), we traveled to the park next to Centennial Pool. It’s nice to just walk around the corner and have a place to play.”

She also explained how run down the lot had been after the day care closed. But since its semi-opening last fall, the Parks and Recreation Department has kept the Tot Lot clean and graffiti-free.

“We want to make sure it’s kept nice,” Duchesneau said. “The girls know their alphabet and ask, ‘Mommy, what does this four-letter word spell?’ when there is graffiti.”

Even the adults appreciate the Shattuck Street addition.

“We love the park,” said Dianne Sheehan, a member of the French Hill Crime Watch. “Anytime you can get people outside in common ground, it’s great for the community.”

“The city is lucky,” Lozeau said at the end of the ceremony. “We have 68 different parks of all different kinds . . . small ones, pocket-parks . . . we’re very lucky.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached at or 594-5833.