FARMINGTON — Members of Farmington Rotary Club Chapter 7790 proposed a children’s outdoor music garden to selectmen Tuesday.

The garden is planned for Walton’s Mill Park in preparation for the club’s centennial celebration in 2025.

The club has done a lot of service projects for the community, member Al Feather said.

“We started to realize that we do a lot of things for the youth in this community as far back as Hippach Field,” he said. “We came up with the idea of partnering with Matt (Foster, head of Farmington Parks and Recreation) to make a musical garden/playground. We met a few times, we found this gentleman in Maine who makes recycled musical equipment. It looked like a natural fit. It looks like they will blend in really nice at the park.”

Club research has shown a lot of playground equipment can be physically challenging, Feather said. “With music there’s a lot of other things that helps a child grow,” he noted. “Simple muscle movements or rhythms are all part of a child’s learning how to speak, other things like that.”

“Outdoor musical instruments can really benefit youngsters who have some sort of impairment,” club President Kirsten Swan said. The hearing impaired can feel the mallet resonate when hitting a drum while the sight impaired can learn rhythms, hear when a sound is flat or sharp, she noted.


“These instruments are all tuned to work with each other not against each other,” Swan said. “It’s not like youngsters pulling pots and pans out of the cupboard, sitting there banging them all day. There is actually rhythm, there is a sound that goes along with the instrument, it gives students sensory stimulation.”

Swan said with the music garden there is no competition. “Students can create his/her own rhythm, it’s not a wrong melody, it reinforces self esteem,” she said. “It helps students that might be on the high end of the autistic spectrum. They might be verbally challenged but music could be a way to communicate and work on some issues through these instruments.”

The club is looking to install four percussion instruments with mallets attached. A chime wall, xylophone and drums are also planned.

Jim Doble of Union makes a “Chimasaur Jr.” out of a propane tank, Swan said. “He uses other pieces — wrenches, what he has on hand. It is all recycled. He has two now but they are spoken for. It could be added prior to 2025.”

Secretary Doug Ibarguen emphasized the instruments would be a great enhancement to Walton’s Mill Park. “It would be a tremendous draw to get people to utilize that park area,” he noted.

Projects that Ibarguen said the club has been involved with are the World War II Honor Roll and bench in Meetinghouse Park and the wading pool and hockey rink at Hippach Field.


“We do a great deal for the youth,” he said. “I believe we are the only Rotary Club in the world that has a Rotary-based club at every school level. It is something we are really proud of, why it is natural for us coming up on our centennial to do something that involves youth.”

A natural play area is planned in back of the pavilion with grassed mounds and logs for children to play on, Foster said.

“We want specific parks to do different things for the community,” he said. “Walton’s Mill Park is our more natural park with the natural play area there. I thought music would be a good fit, creativity would go hand in hand.”

The landscape architect for the project has been consulted and loves the idea, Foster said. “With the noise, it’s toward the back of the park,” so it’s not expected to be much of an issue for the community.

“I think it is a good fit, a great idea. I am really glad they approached me about it,” he said.

Junior Rotary member and Selectman Stephan Bunker noted the club’s motto of “service above self.” He called the music garden another great community, youth-based project.


Selectman Scott Landry said it would bring the park at lot of use.

Swan said the instruments would be fixed but didn’t know the life expectancy of some of the metals used. Doble tunes the instruments when they are installed and will come back every so often to retune them, she added.

“I think a lot of them are designed to be a certain diameter or length, it is not like a piano,” Foster said. “They will probably stay how they are supposed to be for quite a while.”

Estimated to cost $4,600, a district Rotary grant will pay for $2,500 and Farmington Rotary will pick up the rest.

“It is a great project,” Selectman Chairman Matthew Smith said. “We appreciate everything you do for the community.”

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