In preparation for their 2025 centennial celebration, Farmington Rotary Club Chapter 7790 is proposing an outdoor children’s music garden in Walton’s Mill Park. The instruments – made in Maine using recycled materials – will be in the natural play area to be located in the back area of the park seen here in May of 2021. File photo/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — Farmington Rotary Club Chapter 7790 members proposed a children’s outdoor music garden to Selectmen Tuesday, June 28. The garden would be installed in Walton’s Mill Park in preparation of the chapter’s centennial celebration in 2025.

Farmington Rotary has done a lot of service for the local community, Al Feather emeritus youth services for the club, 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 noted. “We came up with the idea of partnering with Matt [Foster, head of Farmington Parks and Recreation] to make a musical garden/playground,” he stated. “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,” Rotary 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 stated. “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 the music garden is a great leveler as there is no competition. “Students can create his/her own rhythm, it’s not a wrong melody, it reinforces self esteem,” she noted. “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.”


Rotary is looking to install four percussion instruments with mallets attached. A chime wall, xylophone and drums are planned and perhaps a Chimasaur Jr.

“[Jim Doble of Union] makes [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 Ibarguen said Rotary has been involved with include the World War II Honor Roll and bench in Meetinghouse Park along with the wading pool and skating rink at Hippach Field. “We do a great deal for the youth,” he noted. “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.”

Hippach Field was first considered, Foster said. A natural play area is planned at Walton’s Mill Park in back of the pavilion with grassed over mounds and logs for children to play on, he noted.

In 2018 voters approved the Walton’s Mill Dam project funded entirely by the Atlantic Salmon Federation that would remove the dam to allow access to Temple Stream for Atlantic salmon. In the spring of 2021 water draw-dawn, the first step in the dam removal began. Most of the work is expected to be completed this year.


“We want specific parks to do different things for the community,” Foster 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 spoken with, loves the idea, Foster said. “With the noise, it’s towards the back of the park, don’t think that will be much of an issue for the community,” he noted. “I think it is a good fit, a great idea. I am really glad they approached me about it.”

As a Junior Rotary member himself, Selectman Stephan Bunker said he was biased and noted the club’s motto of “service above self,” adding it was another great community, youth based project.

Selectman Scott Landry said it was a great idea, would bring a lot of use to the park.

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, will come back every so often to retune them, she added.

Rotary supplied one of Doble’s instruments for Western Maine Play Museum in Wilton, it was noted.

“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 project cost is $4,600. A District Rotary Grant will fund $2,500 with Farmington Rotary picking up the remainder.

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

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