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Child's Park plans move forward

November 25, 2009
MEREDITH — Efforts are underway to raise money for enhancements to Childs Park, without waiting for intersection improvement plans from the state.

A forum was held in Meredith Center on Wednesday to give information and gain public input into possible improvements for Child's Park.

Childs Park is located in Meredith Center across from the Meredith Center Store and by the intersection of Meredith Center Road, Corliss Hill Road, and Livingston Road.

Discussions spearheaded by Meredith Center resident Tammy Carpentiere have been going on to improve the park, which has lost several amenities over the years.

"Every time I drive by Childs Park, I think it's kind of sad," said Beverely Heyduk, chair of the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation Committee. "It looks more like a lot than a park."

Meredith Center resident Cookie Belanger said when her sons were children they would go to the park with hand-powered lawn mowers to clear the grass out of the area so they could use the park.

The main factor in decisions about the park has been the Meredith Center intersection. Town residents and officials have met extensively with representatives of the Department of Transportation to discuss possible options for improving the intersection. Any planning on the park has been put on hold until definitive plans were drawn up by the DOT.

Carpentiere said it is still not known what plans the DOT has for the intersection. Suggestions have included a T-intersection and a roundabout, though there has yet to be any concrete schedules or plans.

Those involved in the effort have been in contact with Executive Councilor Ray Burton for additional support.

Carpentiere said it was decided it would be best to start planning and getting support together for the park now.

"I think we need to go beyond that," Carpentiere said. "Who knows when it will happen. We need to try to put that behind us."

At this year's town meeting, voters approved the creation of the Parks and Recreation Facilities Improvements Fund and the appropriation of $25,000 to go into that fund of which Child's Park was the first priority. Part of that money has gone into the surveying and wetlands delineation of the property.

Park additions and improvements were drawn up in a plan. The plan factors in no changes at the intersection as well as the most built-out option of a roundabout.

Parks and Recreation Director Vint Choiniere said he spoke with Nancy Mayville of the DOT to gauge what the likely option would be and was told the DOT was most supporting a roundabout. However, there are no plans for a roundabout to go in that area.

Despite any possible plans for the intersection, it is unlikely that any work in that area will take away land from the park. Carpentiere said a roundabout would give more space to the park and both options were outlined in the plans.

The proposed improvements to the park include adding 18 additional parking spaces, putting the total at 35, which would help to prevent cars from being parked on the street. The baseball field would be upgraded and the basketball court would be resurfaced and have cracks filled in. A new playground would also be installed.

Additional features would include a small working bathroom with a toilet and sink, as well as a picnic area and shelter in the area of the parking lot.

Choiniere said the early estimated cost for the park is $130,000. The final cost depends on the details of the project, which will be worked out during the winter to be finalized.

The Capitol Improvements Committee recommended to the Board of Selectmen that a warrant article go to the voters at the 2010 town meeting to appropriate to $60,000 into the fund.

The rest of the money will be raised by the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation Committee on the recommendation that fundraising focus on raising money for the playground.

Heyduk said the installation of the playground can be a volunteer effort, people can donate the use of excavators and other equipment and volunteers can help install the playground.

"In the end we'll have something that everyone is proud of," Heyduk said. "We want our park to be a park and not just some place in Meredith Center.

Choiniere emphasized that money raised by the Friends Committee are separate from town funds and all money collected will stay with the organization and not go into town coffers.

"The town has never been more supportive than it is now," Choiniere said, saying voters approved the $25,000 appropriation despite the state of the economy and the project has the support of the CIP Committee. "Clearly we're in a much better position than we've ever been. No matter what happens in March, we will certainly continue to refine our numbers."

The Friends Group has set a goal to raise $20,000 before town meeting in March of 2010. Raising that amount before funding goes to the voters could show the support the project has received so far.

Choiniere also said that the project received a "very, very generous private pledge." He did not say who the donor was or what amount was pledged, though the amount is on the table and almost a certainty.

A few residents expressed concern about if the roundabout was indeed being planned, which Carpentiere and Choiniere said was not the case.

"None of this has been decided or scheduled on the state's part or the town's part," Choiniere said.

CIP member Lou Kahn said the committee unanimously agreed in their recommendation that the project not wait for any plans by the state.

"(The CIP agreed unanimously) if you wait for the state to make a move, we'd all be dead," Kahn said.

Carpentiere said improvements at the park could make DOT officials sensitive to that area if they do plan to improve the intersection.

The Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation are looking to spread the word about the fundraising efforts and are also seeking volunteers who would be willing to donate time as well as money for the effort.

Town of Alexandria
Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
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