OAKLAND – City officials say a park that opened over the summer and one slated for next year are part of an effort to increase recreational opportunities and improve quality life of Oakland residents.
Oakland Overlook Park, which spans over two acres and opened earlier at 8 Smithfield Road, a hill near the city center, offers covered picnic areas, colorful Adirondack chairs, and views of the mountains of western Maine.
“Every time I pass I see a car or two staring outside. It’s just a cool place for people to think, ”Eric Seekins, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said Monday. “It’s not spiritual, but for me nothing beats a good sight, and I think other people feel the same.”
Over the past 18 months, city employees have worked to clear the property from debris and rebuild it, using 15,000 meters of fill donated by a nearby Central Maine Power Co. project.
“We had to transport a lot of things to the transfer station,” said general manager Gari Bowman. “(The property) was a hole we had to fill.
The city acquired the property after the previous owner failed to pay taxes on it.
The property had long been a hot spot for the city, so when the opportunity arose to acquire and improve the plot, the city jumped at the chance, Bowman said.
Most of the money and supplies came from donations from nonprofit groups, including the Kingdom of Life Church, which donated the Adirondack chairs, and the Sunrise Rotary Club.
David Hallowell donated materials from his construction company and several people made private donations. According to officials, only about $ 2,500 from taxpayers was used on the property.
“It was a project in its own right,” Seekins wrote in an email.
A ceremony is planned for the spring. There are also plans to create a community garden, and a sign is being made by Oakland-based Leighton Sign Works to indicate which mountains can be seen in the view.
The mountains include Sugarloaf, Saddleback, Crocker, Abraham and Bigelow, according to Seekins.
Plots for the community garden will be available for a fee for those who grow some of their own food.
“It was well received,” Seekins said of the park. “We took an unsightly property and made it really attractive.”
He said the goal of the Parks and Recreation Department is to improve the quality of life in Oakland.
“We’re always looking to add things that improve our community,” he said.
His department is now focused on planning the development of a 27-acre property at 148 Fairfield Street. Work is expected to begin next summer to transform the site into a Wrigley Recreation Area. Trails, parking and electricity to the site are planned, but nothing is finalized.
“Everyone is scrambling now for ideas,” Seekins said, adding that the city one day hopes to host its annual summer celebration, Oakfest, in Wrigley.
Oakland residents approved the $ 75,000 purchase of the property at this year’s town meeting. The property was bought from people with a connection to former city councilor Byron Wrigley, and they wanted to make sure something was created in his honor on the site, Seekins said.
Oakland has three other parks. Seekins oversaw the creation of each park during his 30 years with the city.
Pleasant Point Park was acquired in 1999 and features a boat launch and a baseball field.
The Messalonskee Creek Trail was built in 2006-07, and the Oakland Waterfront Park on Messalonskee Lake has lookouts and hosts a summer concert series.
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