(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)
More than a decade ago, a young boy died in a freak accident at a Mattapan playground and now that playground, which was recently redeveloped, bears his name in remembrance.
Family members of Tre’Vaughn Anthony Matthews and city officials gathered at the tot lot in the Hunt/Almont Park Saturday to remember the youngster, who in 1996 at just two-and-a-half died when the string of his sweatshirt got caught in play equipment, choking him.
“It just means so much to my family,” Sonya Matthews-Stoudemire, Matthews’s mother, said Saturday morning.
“It’s nice to know that nobody has forgotten,” said Stoudemire, who now lives in Georgia and was joined by her 13-year-old daughter Shai-anne and 11-year-old son Deshon. “It is important that this part of the park remains a tot lot and a safe place for children.”
The new playground boasts plenty of safe features, including rubber flooring for softer landings and new fencing. It also has a water feature, more trees, and updated play equipment.
“Having safe places in all the neighborhoods is so important,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who joined family members Saturday to cut the ribbon on the new playground.
“It gives them [children] an outlet to express themselves and have fun,” Menino added.
Anthony Milligan, the father of Matthews, also attended Saturday’s ribbon cutting and said the new park will act as a bright spot for the community and his family.
“It’s just so bittersweet,” said Milligan, who resides in Dorchester. “Hopefully my kids can understand that even when a tragic event happens, something positive like this park can come out of it.”
The redevelopment and design of the lot, which cost an estimated $796,000, is just the first phase of the planned redevelopment of the entire 16-acre Almont Park, located between Almont Street and Messinger Street.
“Young kids need places like this to play, but they also need spaces that are safe,” Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, said Saturday. “Now it’s about continuing momentum and showing the community it [renovation] wasn’t just a conversation.”
The home of the Mattapan Patriots Pop-Warner team, planned upgrades to the entire park include the installation of an artificial turf field, parking, new lighting, the installation of a walking track and exercise equipment, and the construction of a dog run area.
“I hope this continues the way it is going,” said Donald Caisey, president of the Mattapan Patriots, who attended Saturday’s event. “It’s extremely important for the community children to have a safe and nice place to enjoy the summer and we’re ready for phase two.”
Phase two is funded from the Capital Budget and will include the installation of a new field, bleachers, lighting, and tennis courts, according to the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. With a construction budget of $1.2-million, phase two is expected to start at the end of the Pop Warner season in late-fall 2013 and be completed in early-2014.
“This is a community that is resilient and continues to work hard to improve the neighborhood,” said Menino. “Today shows that this neighborhood is alive.”