LEWISTON — The construction of Maine’s first universally-accessible playground at Marcotte Park will begin Thursday after a yearslong effort to fund and design the project.
This week, just in time for the groundbreaking, the project received another last-minute boost with more funding and even a new name.
The City Council on Tuesday approved naming the playground “Jude’s Place at Marcotte Park” in honor of state Sen. Nate Libby’s son Jude, who has cerebral palsy.
The council also allocated up to $100,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds toward completing the new park.
Marcotte Park is the triangle plot east of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, where Jefferson, Caron and Birch streets meet.
Libby, along with Lewiston Community Relations Coordinator Dot Perham-Whittier, has been advocating and fundraising for the project for years.
When the project got off the ground in 2012, it received funding from California-based Shane’s Inspiration, a nonprofit organization that helps build playgrounds that are accessible to all children, regardless of their physical ability.
According to a city memo explaining the decision to name the playground for Libby’s son, “Libby has been instrumental in the creation of this playground and understands the need to have facilities that can benefit children of all abilities.”
In a Facebook post about the name, Libby said he was feeling a range of emotions.
“Happiness, pride, gratitude, a bit emotional too,” he said.
Libby said his son is nonmobile and nonverbal, “but he’s the light of our lives and absolutely adores sights, sounds and sensations of all kinds. Swimming, stroller rides, and going down slides and swinging on swings are among his favorites. He’s my inspiration for being the volunteer leader of this playground project over the last three years.”
In a news release Wednesday, Perham-Whittier said as construction starts Thursday, Marcotte Park will be closed from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
She said that once construction is complete and the playground equipment and rubberized surface is installed, “all children — regardless of their abilities — will be able to play alongside each other. No one will have to watch from the sidelines.”
Public Works Director Dave Jones said Wednesday that work is to be completed no later than April 1, 2019, but the majority will likely be done this fall.
“Because of the construction sequencing and the weather requirements for some of the work, we expect most of the work to be completed by the end of November,” he said.
He said the work includes installation of sidewalks and walkways, a rubber surface, pavers, a retaining wall and a water service, stormwater drainage and several pieces of playground equipment.
The construction bid was awarded to Gordon Contracting, but was slightly over budget. The bid came back at $533,200, but according to a memo, after the city purchased the playground equipment last spring, only $345,000 remained for the project.
But, according to the memo, Public Works worked with the contractor to “value engineer” the proposal, and savings of $113,000 were identified, reducing the bid price to $420,200 “without changing the scope or design of the playground.”
Once the project got off the ground, Perham-Whittier and city recreation officials worked with architects from Shane’s Inspiration to design the park based on the location. Libby got on board to help with fundraising efforts.
The city also announced in June that it had received a $30,000 grant from The Walt Disney Co. toward the playground.
Marcotte Park, between Jefferson, bottom, and Caron streets in Lewiston, will be closed Thursday while a new playground is built. The field abuts the new artificial turf baseball field at Lewiston High School where Jefferson Street turns into Birch Street. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo)
State Sen. Nate Libby of Lewiston stands with his son, Jude. A new universally-accessible playground at Marcotte Park in Lewiston will be named in honor of Jude. Construction begins Thursday. (Submitted photo)