Possible ‘wholesale change’ for Clifford Playground

Sun, 09/08/2019 - 8:45am

Over the years, the Harold B. Clifford Community Park in Boothbay has hosted hundreds of area children on its jungle gyms, swings and ball field. But lately, the place is showing its age.

Now, thanks to local philanthropist Paul Coulombe, 8-year old Olivia Roberts and her mom, Julie, and Boothbay Town Manager Dan Bryer, things are on the upswing. As Julie Roberts explained, on April 7 she sent an email to Coulombe saying, “As I'm putting Olivia to bed tonight, she says, ‘You always work on east side stuff ... Could you do something about Clifford playground?’ I told her that after the May 3 Boothbay Harbor vote was done we would do it ... Paul agreed and said, ‘It's a deal!’"

It could be a very big deal: Coulombe pledged up to $250,000 to match any funds raised to rehab the field and add some extras.

Coulombe’s offer in hand, Roberts reached out to Bryer, who told her, “Let’s figure out how to make this work.” A working group first met Aug. 15. Its members are Dale Harmon, Sue Mello, Desiree Scorcia, Mary Baudo, Tom Nickerson, Dana Paolillo, Roberts and Bryer.

Boothbay will apply for a $300,000 Land and Water Conservation grant and Bryer hopes to hear the result by February. A grant from the program provided some funding for the playground in 1981.

If the new grant is secured, work could begin on a re-designed community space next spring. Bryer said it would mean “a wholesale change” for the playground.

According to Roberts, Coulombe has already fronted $15,000-$20,000 in costs for design plans that will accompany the grant application due Nov. 22.

According to Bryer and Roberts, over the years other groups have formed to help the playground. Four years ago, a re-development committee hoped to use tax increment financing (TIF) funds but found out they couldn’t be used for a park. More recently, the playground received a $10,000 donation for new swings and rides. Part of the area lies in the watershed, so any plans need both town and Department of Environmental Protection approval.

Coulombe, Roberts and Bryer met at the playground Friday, Sept. 6 to talk about the possibilities. The project’s first stage involves the playground, ball field and a pavilion/concession stand.

The ball field would be reconfigured to encompass lacrosse, soccer and other field games. Bringing water and sewer lines to the park is a hoped-for addition and will make a concession stand possible.

Because Coulombe’s donation and a federal grant would fund the project, “It won’t impact the town’s mil rate,” Bryer added.

After phase one, other designs may include an adult workout area, a one- to three-mile walking path, cross country skiing, and a safe area for joggers. Boothbay Civic Association has asked about the possibility a skating rink.

The goal is an area that can be enjoyed by all ages, Coulombe explained. “It’s multi-generational. Every age in every family can use the facilities and it becomes a real draw for the community.”

To donate, contact Bryer at 633-2051 or Roberts at 633-2266.