An image provided by the city shows where an outdoor fitness court will be installed at Simard-Payne Memorial Park. City of Lewiston

LEWISTON — The City Council accepted a grant and appropriated funding to install an outdoor “fitness court” at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, but not without a lengthy debate about whether it should be placed there.

The city will receive $50,000 toward the $187,000 project meant to encourage health and wellness, but several councilors questioned the proposed location, with concerns ranging from vandalism to a lack of foot traffic.

City staff said Simard-Payne on Beech Street was chosen due to the grant requirements of a location that abuts a trail, as well as the larger effort of bringing more economic development to Lewiston’s riverfront area.

Brian O’Malley, deputy city administrator, said Sunnyside Park on Winter Street and Simard-Payne were considered due to their proximity to walking trails, but that Sunnyside was too small. He said the hope with Simard-Payne is that it can tie into other efforts to redevelop the area and could be an attraction for new residents of a housing project at Continental Mill.

The council ultimately voted 5-2 to approve the grant and spending, but some argued that Pettingill School Park on College Street should have been chosen as the site.

Councilors Linda Scott and Bob McCarthy, voting against the measure, said they had “serious concerns” about the location.


“We’re putting the cart before the horse,” she said about Simard-Payne, adding that smaller parks like Pettengill already have playgrounds, where parents could exercise while children are playing.

McCarthy, the Ward 2 councilor, said he heard complaints from constituents while campaigning that the city doesn’t invest in areas outside the downtown. He believes the proposed location will be a “target for vandalism.”

Public Works Director Mary Ann Brenchick said the site was also chosen due to its connection to the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, during which she said the community expressed demand for an outdoor gym. Part of the money is from funding originally set aside for a public restroom.

Mayor Carl Sheline argued that Simard-Payne is busier than people believe. He said he regularly sees families there, people playing soccer, running, or walking dogs.

An image included in the Lewiston City Council packet shows what the outdoor fitness court could look like at Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Beech Street in Lewiston. City of Lewiston

City staff applied for the National Fitness Campaign grant in June, and was selected later that month “as a qualified partner in the 2022 Community Health Options Maine Campaign.”

“We felt that the project would fit in nicely with our commitment to wellness and the expansion of our walking trail system,” a council memo from Brenchick said.


She said the city can apply in the future toward more fitness court locations.

Margaret Craven, who serves on the Friends of Pettingill organization, urged the council to accept the grant during during public comment. She said it’s “important to support opportunities for people to stay healthy,” which can be a model for children.

She said she’s “not jealous it’s not going to Pettingill,” and that the first installation could “put the city on the map as the first community to do so.”

Brenchick said it’s slated to be one of two installations in Maine this year, with Augusta also receiving a project.

Asked about vandalism in city parks, Police Chief David St. Pierre said it’s random, and that the worst he’s seeing right now is at the gazebo in Kennedy Park.

Scott said while she wants to see Simard-Payne grow, vandalism is “a reality.”

“I want to see Simard-Payne park move forward, but I have very much concern about where this will be located,” she said.

According to the memo, after the $50,000 grant, the remaining project cost is $137,350, which includes a large concrete slab, a qualified installer and the fitness equipment. It states future considerations would be a drinking fountain, lighting and security cameras. The National Fitness Campaign also assists with layout, programming and marketing, it states.

Due to the site’s proximity to the Hampton Inn, Councilor Stephanie Gelinas said the hotel owner was excited about the project and the potential for expanding lighting between the properties.

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