This nod was overdue.
Just a quick move of the head, given by the Lewiston City Council toward the community advocates comprising the Visible Community, whose unshaken support for a small public park in the city’s Maple Street neighborhood was finally acknowledged, and validated, by the council.
The council agreed to purchase a small parcel on Knox Street for a “pocket park” to replace the forlorn and seemingly forgotten Maple Street Park.
On the surface, it seems like a minor deal, the swapping of a vacant park on one corner for another just around the bend. But going deeper, the agreement – facilitated by the city’s new downtown task force – could signal an upcoming period of positive, progressive community relations within Lewiston.
It’s something the city needs, perhaps more than economic development. Rushes to rebuild have made certain residential areas of downtown feel trampled upon; Maple Street Park was the martyr of this sentiment – an innocent bystander struck in the crossfire of the boulevard development, which ended up pushing up daisies, too.
The empty park was a clarion symbol of municipal focus on big projects, rather than small amenities, even though savvy politicians and administrators should know they’re equally important. People want bustling communities and economic development, but they also want places for their kids to play, and sidewalks by their homes.
By voting to purchase the small parcel on Knox Street – yes, we’re aware it’s owned by Councilor Norm Rousseau’s wife, and it’s beside the point – the council gave overdue recognition to the sentiments of the community, which, as we’ve said, wasn’t asking for all that much.
Just a small public park, in a neighborhood that had its park taken away. Now it’s coming back.
Through this decision, as well, the city council has given laudable support and voice to the downtown task force, which, after a controversial inception, is proving its worth. The task force recommended the Knox Street purchase as part, not parcel, of its work toward a master plan for the entire city.
A small step, one which recognized it is weak public policy to focus on massive projects while failing to realize the opportunities for progress that arise along the way. The task force will complete a “downtown master plan;” but we don’t want it to ignore common sense choices, and chances, while they do so.
“We saw this park as an immediate need the neighbors have been waiting for,” says Adilah Mohammed, the task force’s chairman. “It didn’t make sense for them to have to wait for two more years.”
Waiting this long to rectify the Maple Street Park situation in the first place hasn’t made much sense either. If the task force can act this sensibly, and swiftly, into the future, Lewiston’s downtown will benefit.