Cumberland breathes new life into westside rec hall

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CUMBERLAND — In the case of the West Cumberland Recreation Hall, what’s old is truly new again.

The Blackstrap Road building, owned by the town for about 50 years and home to various community events, has had major renovations in recent months in an effort to make the center off Route 100 more of a town hub for the 21st century.

Still, with the exception of a new wheelchair ramp to improve accessibility and refinished hardwood floors, the community gem retains much of its traditional character.

The building was across from the Morrison Hill Church on Gray Road before the church donated it to the town and the structure was moved to its present location, Town Manager Bill Shane and Assistant Manager Chris Bolduc said in an interview June 22.

Until recently, Shane said, the town has done little to it.

But now the building has a fresh coat of paint; renovated bathrooms; a new roof, windows and doors, and a propane-fueled heating system.

What look like old-school radiators along wainscoted walls are actually fancy baseboards, “just trying to make it fit in with the character of the building,” Shane said.

The new ventilation system replaced a massive system that would “blow the heat out like you were in a three-car garage bay,” he said. “… Now you can hear yourself think.”

Clark Construction of Gray did the work over about two months, but the project had been in the planning stages for about two years, Bolduc said. It cost about $100,000 and was funded through the town’s building reserve account, Shane said.

Stacked in a corner of the building are 70-80 folding chairs for residents to use July 25, when the Town Council meets at the recreation center, instead of at Town Hall.

“My vision has always been to turn this into something more than just rec space,” Shane said, suggesting a coffee house or, as he looked toward the stage, plays or musical shows – “some different things here that we normally wouldn’t do as a community, and just try to pull people together.”

People interested in holding events at the facility can contact the town’s Recreation Department, which leases the space, at 829-2208.

Shane added that the works of local artists could be displayed in the community room. A display case showcasing items from the Cumberland Historical Society already is in place in the building lobby.

“There’s so much potential for this space,” he said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The main room of the West Cumberland Recreation Center has had significant renovations in recent months, including refinished floors and a new heating system.

The hall now also sports a ramp for increased accessibility.

Donated to the town of Cumberland half a century ago, the West Cumberland Recreation Hall on Blackstrap Road has had significant interior renovations.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.