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Landscape architect designs playground for her Hamburg hometown

Lynn Mason was in sixth grade when the Hamburg Community Playground was built in 1990.

“My kids learned how to climb up and down stairs at this playground,” she said from the site this week.

Mason is a landscape architect in the Buffalo office of Central New York-based Parkitects. Her children – Mikayla, Jacob and Sadie Mason, 7, 5, 3, respectively – like to believe their mother designs playgrounds all across Western New York just for them. They were none to pleased last year when they learned she was part of the plan to remove their favorite playground.

“There were tears shed because they love this playground,” Mason said. “I love it just as much as they do,” she said. “I told them, ‘We’re going to put something back equally as cool.’ ”

Mason joined the Hamburg Community Playground Committee when she discovered village and civic leaders were interested in replacing the beloved playground sandwiched between Highland and Prospect avenues. She and her family, including husband, David, a fellow architect, have helped with fundraisers designed to help cover the $450,000 cost. They also look to be part of the community build next spring that will bring the new structure to life.

Mason has attended dozens of community events and planning meetings to explain how she and her company have designed and will help in the effort. She’s thrown herself into the work because this is her hometown.

“I’m visible in the community – I’m involved in my kids’ schools, I’m a Girl Scout troop leader – so if people don’t like it, they know where to find me,” said Mason, 38, who holds a master’s in architecture from the University at Buffalo and a master’s in landscape architecture from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Q. When did you decide you wanted to be and architect?

As a kid. I loved building things, drawing things. I loved math, mixing art and mathematics into one thing.

Q. Can you talk about some of the features of the new playground?

It follows almost the same 14,000-square-foot footprint. We wanted to make sure it was all-inclusive, for kids ages 2 to 12 and for all abilities. We’re really paying homage to the existing one, picking similar color palettes, similar pieces with the roofs, incorporating pieces the kids really like. ... It will have a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round. Tunnel climbers, a rock cave, ziplines. A flywheel spinner, roller table, accessible swings. A tic-tac-toe panel. Accessible ramps and bridges. We did a belt bridge similar to what we have on the current one. We have five different slides, the same number that are here now.

We incorporated a seat wall around much of the playground border, which will give people a place to sit and prevent kids from darting out in the road. We’re going to have fitness equipment, too, really making it a multigenerational park. It will be exercise equipment for ages 13-plus. It will include a stretching machine, steppers, a pull-up and dip machine and a stand-up, pushup and row machine. It will run along the 2- to 5-year-old area and basketball court.

The cost includes the safety surfacing, replacing pea gravel with engineered wood fiber and poured-in-place rubber surfacing like at the playground at the Small Boat Harbor. We asked some people what iconic images they thought were in Hamburg and we created a storefront of the Grange Building and an ice cream store that’s been around for 50-plus years. There’s the old Palace movie theater that’s been around here forever. We’ve incorporated those for the kids at their own size, so they can play within their own little Hamburg village. We even have a roundabout and trolley car for the kids to play on...

The original piers to the original playground are staying, with the original date and logo, and we are making a duplicate set on the other side. When they built it, there were two logos, so we’re using the logo they did not choose on the other side. We’ll have donor bricks on the piers, too.

Q. What will happen to the pieces in the existing playground?

In 2000-01, the pressure-treated wood that it was made with was banned because the material has (trace amounts of) arsenic in it, so when it’s taken out it will be disposed of. The village has done its due diligence and sealed it every year. It’s been tested and never had the levels to warrant removal. The playground will be removed this fall as part of the Hamburg Healthy Neighborhoods Corridor/Safe Route to School Project while they are removing the sidewalks along Highland and Prospect. The project will run past the playground all the way from the traffic circle at Main and Center to the high school and middle school athletic fields, putting in 5-foot-wide sidewalks with signage areas and seating along the way. Work on the overall project will start in September.

The Hamburg Community Playground Committee has raised about $375,000 – including a $200,000 state grant through Assemblyman Sean Ryan – and has several large fundraisers planned this fall. The first is a Farewell to the Playground Chiavetta’s Chicken BBQ at the playground site, 107 Prospect Ave. For more information, visit email:

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