Friday, September 30, 2016

Windham Parks and Rec Advisory Committee proposes community park - By S. Signor

Last week the Windham Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, which is relatively new to the town and made up of volunteer community members, brought forth a concept and proposal for the development of a community park.  In addition to members, Linda Brooks, head of Windham Parks and Recreation Department, was also present. 

Before the presentation, advisory committee chair Pat Moody provided an update on the current status of the skate park. “As you know the old ramps have been removed and new ones are just about complete. It will not be as robust as it was but the park should reopen in about a month or so. In the new plan we have an idea for the skate park as well and I will get to that.”

The idea behind this community park is to have someplace where everyone can go and interact for all age levels. It would be located on the same parcel where the current skate park and community garden are located on Route 202 next to the public safety building.  

“These potential elements I have presented would be phased in over time. The envisioned community park includes a playground for young families to enjoy, a picnic area or green space, a frog pond/splash pad of sorts, disc golf, and a gazebo/pavilion for public events such as the tree lighting and concerts in the park.” Added to this, there would be a basketball court and a beach volleyball court because these sports have become very popular in Windham. “Right now there are 450 youth ranging from kindergarten to six grades that participate in basketball and there are also men’s leagues. Currently there is a volleyball program as well, so these sports are highly utilized,” Moody continued.
Concern was raised about the future of the community garden by councilor Dave Nadeau. “It is envisioned that a walking/jogging track or loop would encompass the entire park, similar to what you see at Back Cove in Portland. This of course would include the community garden which would remain where it is,” responded Moody.  

Concern was also voiced about parking. “If this park attracts too much attention there is going to be an issue of parking,” stated Nadeau. “As for the skate park, this will be relocated within the parcel to accommodate additional parking,” assured Moody. 

In regard to the total space available for the park Nadeau said “I don’t see all these elements filling in the space of that parcel. You have to prioritize the elements you want there.” 

Along with Moody, Brooks agreed and stated “we need to get engineers in there and look at it and see what will fit.”

Regarding the financial responsibility of such a project, “we discussed funding but it is something we need to understand better. Right now the Town Recreation Impact Fee account has a $160,000 balance. There are also grants available. If we build the skateboard ramps out of concrete versus wood the Tony Clark Skate Boarding foundation will provide some grant funding. We see this as a recognizable improvement in our community and a good use of the funds,” said Moody. 

Town Manager Tony Plante said “there is also a Water and Land Conservation fund available. There are a number of things we can pull together as part of our recreation plan. I think this is a good time to be having this discussion since it is before we get into the 2018 budget.”

Town council chairwoman Donna Chapman agreed. “I think this is a great idea, it would be a good multi-use facility in a high impact, high profile area.” 

Councilor Tim Nangle also agreed. “This would be a great use of these funds so get together and get to work on those. It would be great to get use of some of the grants. I completely support this.” 
It was unanimous that moving forward, estimates should be obtained from Sebago Technics who drew up plans for a similar idea 10 years ago. Town Manager Tony Plante suggested “contacting Sebago Technics, freshen up the plan and come up with some kind of phasing to incorporate the elements.” 

“Great things are happening in Windham,” said Moody.

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