Almont Park playground renamed for Mattapan toddler who died there in 1996

A section of a city park in Mattapan was dedicated this morning to the memory of a toddler who died there in May 1996, officials said.

Tre’Vaughn Matthews was 2 ½ when he sat at the top of a slide in Almont Park with other children from his daycare. The drawstring on his windbreaker got caught in a hole as he started sliding, choking him.

A medical examiner later determined he had been hanging on the slide for one to two minutes before he was released, already in cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead in Boston City Hospital.

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This morning, Tre’Vaughn’s mother and two siblings helped Mayor Thomas M. Menino cut the ribbon to dedicate the Tre’Vaughn Anthony Matthews Tot Lot, said Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“It was sad, there were some tears shed because of the tragedy that occurred, and the family did lose a wonderful little boy,” Goddard said. “But it was a beautiful tribute, and I know the family did appreciate naming the tot lot after their son.”

The ceremony marked the end of phase one of renovations at the park.

With $796,000 for design and construction allocated through Boston’s capital improvement plan, the Parks and Recreation Department installed rubber surfaces for youngsters to play on, climbing structures, a large ring for children to spin on, and other play equipment, Goddard said.

City officials plan to continue renovating the 18-acre park, installing basketball and tennis courts, a new field, track, lighting, a designated play area for dogs, and outdoor exercise equipment, according to a Parks and Recreation Department statement.

The renovation will likely cost several million dollars, Goddard said, though she said she did not know what the exact price tag will be.

Tre’Vaughn’s mother and two siblings, who now live in Georgia, stayed at the park for a short while after the ceremony before boarding a flight back home, Goddard said. They posed for photos with former neighbors and the green-and-white sign bearing Tre’Vaughn’s name as children played behind them.

“It was very touching,” Goddard said.

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