People explore Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Kennedy Park is the largest city park in Lewiston, but it is by no means the only one. On Wednesday, between noon and 1 p.m., five Sun Journal staff writers visited 10 public parks to take a walk and observe how each park was being used, and who was visiting.

In some parks, children were playing happily. In others, people were taking lunch breaks from work. And, at the Veterans Memorial Park, nestled along the Androscoggin River, a veteran sat in quiet contemplation.

Below, a taste of the city parks.

Dave Fogg came to Lewiston on Wednesday afternoon to meet his wife, Sandy, for lunch at Veterans Memorial Park. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Veterans Memorial Park, 2 Main St.

Jonathan Mann of Lewiston sits and unwinds on a bench at Veterans Memorial Park. Mann, a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1987 to 1991 as a boiler technician, said that the park helps quell anxiety from his PTSD. Matthew Daigle/Sun Journal

What you’ll find: The park next to the Androscoggin River and the Longley Memorial Bridge features a winding brick-laid path lined with small flags, monuments, stones and benches dedicated to soldiers who died in combat. The path leads to a small opening with 26 stones featuring the names of people who have served or are presently serving in the military and a Gold Star Mother’s emblem. There are also several artifacts placed throughout the park, including a Willy’s U.S. Army Jeep, a gun and anchor, and a Vietnam-era Corsair A-7D fighter jet.

Vibe: Quiet, clean, organized. The hum of traffic from the nearby bridge and the sound of water crashing down the rocks of the Great Falls adds to the ambiance but doesn’t distract from the serenity.

What we saw: There were two people at the park Wednesday afternoon, despite the warm weather and sunny sky: a Lewiston veteran sitting on one of the benches and a Lewiston worker sitting on a stone overlooking the Androscoggin River. The flowers planted along the walking path offered bright, vibrant colors in contrast to the gray of the polished granite benches and stones.

Best thing we heard: Jonathan Mann of Lewiston, who lives on Park Street and served in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 1991 as a boiler technician, said  Veterans Memorial Park is “a quiet, relaxing place for me to come and unwind.” He said that after he was diagnosed with PTSD from time spent in the Persian Gulf War, the park has served as an escape from the confines of his apartment.

“There’s a nice breeze that comes in off the river so you’re not baking in the sun,” Mann said. “With my PTSD, it’s nice to have a place to come where you can relax and decompress.”

Audrianna Vallee, 29, of Auburn walks along the paved path at Simard-Payne Memorial Park behind her 5-year old daughter, Lilianna Demelle.

Simard-Payne Memorial Park, 46 Beech St.

Workers ready the grounds of Simard Payne Memorial Park Wednesday afternoon for this weekend’s Great Falls Balloon Festival. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

What you’ll find: The park, commonly used for large community events such as the Dempsey Challenge, the Great Falls Balloon Festival and the Great Falls Brewfest, has a walking path that runs around a large, multipurpose playing field and extends onto the Riverwalk Trail in Auburn. There is also a small performance amphitheater and several benches scattered throughout the park. Stone slabs have been set along the Androscoggin River for people to sit.

Vibe: Quiet, busy, pristine.

What we saw: Even without a scheduled event, Simard-Payne Memorial Park was bustling with activity. Employees from downtown Lewiston businesses were using the walking path on their lunch breaks. People from Auburn were biking or walking across the trestle bridge to use the park’s walking path. One man, sitting on a bench overlooking the Androscoggin River, said he was enjoying the weather and using the quiet of the park to “think over some things.” At the far end of the playing field, Lewiston Public Works employees were setting up tents and booths in preparation for the Great Falls Balloon Festival on Aug. 16-18.

Best thing we heard: “We love the fact that the walking path is paved. It makes it so much easier for my daughter to ride her bike.” — Audrianna Vallee of Auburn, walking the path with her daughter Lilianna Demelle, 5.

Chris attempts — and makes — an over-the-back basket Wednesday just after noon at Sunny Side Park while Chelsea, left, and Brandon look on. The group declined to give their last names. Kathryn Skelton/Sun Journal

Sunny Side Park, 132 Winter St.

What you’ll find: Standard, slightly aging playground equipment with slides and a few swings, three basketball hoops on a paved court, lots of wood chips, nice shade trees in the center, a small lawn for games and running around, several benches and a well-maintained Jayden Cho-Sargent Memorial Garden with lots of flowers.

Vibe: Very relaxed and surprisingly quiet given its proximity just a quarter-mile off Main Street. The street isn’t busy, the area is fenced in. It’s easy to imagine young kids tearing around safely.

What we saw: Two men and two women laughing and playing a relaxed game of H-O-R-S-E at one basket, three people headed down the paved walking trail that starts at the park’s entrance. A trash can at the front of the park was brimming over with trash, but better there than on the playground.

Best thing we heard: “That was way better than I would have done!” — Chelsea, offering some H-O-R-S-E encouragement.

The coveted tire swing at Pettingill School Park on College Street. Kathryn Skelton/Sun Journal

Pettingill School Park, 411 College St.

What you’ll find: Two newer play structures with slides and plenty to climb, eight swings plus a tire swing, two hoops (though not facing each other) on a paved court, racks to lean your bikes, benches for sitting and the Lenny Breau Pergola half semi-shading a stage, half two picnic tables. There’s a huge expanse of lawn separating it from high-traffic College Street.

Vibe: Very relaxed and welcoming, if pretty hot. Outside of the pergola, there isn’t much shade.

What we saw: Three parents trailing after preschoolers on the playground equipment and a group snacking on one of the picnic tables.

Best thing we heard: “This is one of my favorite (parks), I like this area. I don’t feel like a lot of people come here. They really like the tire swing — I don’t think there’s a tire swing at any of the other parks.” — Sarah Dyer, at the park with clients

Lionel Potvin Park, 1 Cedar St.

Three young girls play on the slide at Potvin Park at the corner of River and Cedar Streets in Lewiston Wednesday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

What you’ll find: A compact children’s playground with six swings, including two bucket-style for toddlers and one full seat for kids with special needs, and complex play structures with multiple slides and a ton of places to climb. Throughout the play area, the ground is covered in wood chips to help ensure soft landings, but the rest of the park features grass and shade trees. For adults who want to sit more than play, a couple of park benches have direct line of sight to the swings and play structures. On the edge of the park, a square of new pavement sits empty — but not for long. A contractor will install new basketball hoops and additional park benches within weeks. The little park will also get a water mister.

Vibe: Urban oasis. Located just off busy Cedar Street, the park is separated from traffic by short wooden barriers. You are clearly in the city, but the shade trees and grass make the area feel more serene. The park was clean and well kept on this day, though a neighbor said vandalism is not uncommon.

What we saw: Three girls had the playground to themselves. Ages 2, 4 and 10, they were with family members who lived nearby. While they slid down the playground’s twisty slide — clumped together, hugging and giggling as they went — 15-year-old Teliah Viscone gazed over from the front steps of the house next door. She wasn’t babysitting the girls, but she often did babysit other kids and she liked to bring them to the park.

Potvin Park has had its problems, she said. The city has had to replace equipment purposely damaged by kids, she said, and the park has been vandalized. Still, she loves it.

“It’s a great park,” she said. “I’ve been here all my life. Not many people have a park right next door. This park is my backyard.”

Best thing we heard: “It’s fun, but it gets boring after a while.” — 10-year-old girl

The former St. Mary’s Park on Oxford Street is now an empty lot. Lindsay Tice/Sun Journal

Of note: St. Mary’s Park is still listed on the city’s website at 152 Oxford St. The tiny park used to feature a swing set and benches, but the city got rid of the park three years ago. Instead, Lewiston has focused its time and money on Potvin Park, with its bigger space and larger playground “literally a stone’s throw away,” said Megan Bates, Lewiston’s deputy director for highway and open spaces. The park is an empty lot. Bates said the city as no plans for the former park.

Boys play basketball at Mark W. Paradis Park on Pierce Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Mark W. Paradis Park, 180 Pierce St.

Trash piles up at Paradis Park on Pierce Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

What you’ll find: This is a surprisingly large park set below Pierce and Blake streets, behind the Italian Bakery on Bartlett Street. It has a small soccer field with a large chain-link fence around it, a basketball hoop, six swings, two playscapes and a couple of sheltered picnic tables.

Vibe: It’s not the world’s prettiest place, with so much fencing and a fair amount of trash strewn around, but it appeared to be in good repair.

What we saw: At the top of the steps at the end of Pierce Street, someone wrote, “I love Lewiston” on the concrete. That sets a nice tone — helped along by two colorful pieces of art painted on the steps. In the park, boys heaved a Spalding basketball toward the sole hoop and another shimmied up the metal pole to stand above the backboard with a grin. A few older guys cutting through looked up from their phones long enough to say hey.

Best thing we heard: Happy cheering when a small boy got a basketball through a hoop.

Knox Street park

A mother and four children enjoyed the playground at tiny Knox Street Park in downtown Lewiston. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

Knox Street Park, 69 Knox St.

What you’ll find: A slide, swings, a couple of jungle gyms, a seesaw and a few other stray pieces of play apparatus on a small lot covered with wood chips.

Vibe: Next door to a community garden, this tiny park appeared reasonably neat and remarkably quiet considering that it’s smack in the middle of a crowded residential neighborhood.

What we saw: Two boys walking with an older brother raced in one after another, jumped to grab a wheel mounted in the playground and whirled around while they held on overhead. Then they raced away down the sidewalk. Later, a mom carrying a baby wrapped in a red blanket came with three little boys. With surprising grace, she managed to push two of the boys on swings without waking the wee one. The other boy, the biggest of them, said he loves the park but scurried away when his mother gave him a clear don’t-talk-to-strangers look.

Best thing we heard: “Whee!” from two boys spinning around on the same piece of playground equipment.

Jude’s Place at Marcotte Park when it opened in November 2018. Sun Journal file photo

Jude’s Place at Marcotte Park, Jefferson Street

What you’ll find: Jude’s Place is Lewiston’s newest playground and the state’s only universally accessible playground. It opened late last year and the terrain is an interesting mix of play equipment with a specially-designed layout on a rubberized surface. It includes musical equipment, swings, slides, a water feature and more.

Marcotte Park is the triangle plot east of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, where Jefferson, Caron and Birch streets meet.

Vibe: On Tuesday, a group of kids and moms mostly congregated near a cluster of picnic tables covered by an awning in the center of the playground, as a Lewiston Public Works crew worked nearby. The playground looked freshly groomed, and the sound of the children playing competed with a Public Works Bobcat adding dirt to level off a section of the park at the crest of a hill.

What we saw: While there were children enjoying the playground and its new equipment, the most popular activity at the time Wednesday — perhaps due to the summer sun — was filling a cup with water and dumping it on your most vulnerable friend. There were the normal screams and laughs and cries associated with playgrounds, but also the occasional agonizing sound of a splash of cold water to the back.

Best thing we heard: A young boy asked me if “water fights” were allowed at the playground, perhaps thinking that I was in charge, given my crossed-leg perch on a bench with a notepad and no child. I politely pointed to a Public Works crew member smoothing out some soil and told the boy to check with the real authority. After a brief chat with the crew member, the water continued to fly.

George Ricker Park at East Avenue and Bartlett Street.

George Ricker Park, Corner of East Avenue and Bartlett Street

What you’ll find: George Ricker Park, named for the former Lewiston city councilor, School Committee member and state legislator, is less of a destination and more of a quiet cut-through for pedestrians heading to or from Bartlett Street or East Avenue. There’s a gazebo and a few benches next to a plaque in honor of Ricker with maintained beds of petunias, marigolds and geraniums.

Vibe: The park sits on the opposite end of the Lewiston High School campus from Marcotte Park and is directly next to the entrance to the new Connors Elementary School. The octagonal gazebo may provide a brief respite for pedestrians or students hoping for a quiet moment away from the barrage of surrounding traffic. Directly across the street is a strip mall extending to Lisbon Street

What we saw: While there, I saw three people. There was a man taking advantage of the gazebo bench seats, and later, a woman and another man used the dirt path past the flowers to head toward East Avenue.

Best thing we heard: The sounds here were mostly lunch-hour traffic whizzing by, but the smell of the flowers and excuse to sit and slow down for a moment is what parks are for.

Sun Journal staff writers Kathryn Skelton, Lindsay Tice, Steve Collins, Matt Daigle and Andrew Rice contributed to this story.

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