Libbytown residents eager for new Portland playground

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PORTLAND — New adventures could be coming to Dougherty Field this fall.

The planned North Woods Adventure Playground, part of the city’s Community Development Block Grant budget, will merge traditional and rugged settings.

“I’d call it a hybrid playground, traditional equipment and hills and boulders,” city Parks Division Deputy Director Ethan Hipple said March 7. “If the funding comes through, we’d be looking at a fall installation.”

The funding could happen as soon as April 18, when city councilors are expected to vote on the CDBG budget. The park project is slated to receive $137,000 in CDBG funding that originates from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

The new playground will be where an aging one now sits, with the preliminary plan adding landscaped green space, a picnic area and “Mt. Libby Overlook,” with boulder outcroppings.

Dougherty Park sits in a triangle-shaped parcel bordered by Interstate 295 and St. James and Douglass streets.

Hipple said the city will then add $50,000 of its own in-kind funding to meet the estimated $187,000 cost.

The preliminary plans were drafted in part by Nick and Caitlin Aceto, neighborhood newcomers with an expertise in architectural design.

“I grew up in Portland and have wanted to contribute my skills here and help Portland grow in a good direction. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than help a great neighborhood like Libbytown realize their vision,” Nick Aceto said in a March 8 email.

The design was readily embraced by Pam Murton, who has lived in Libbytown for 35 years with her husband, John.

“We are old timers now, we have been waiting a long time for these improvements,” she said March 9. “I would love to be able to take my grandchildren to a neighborhood playground.”

Hipple said the new Dougherty Field playground would resemble ones at Deering Oaks Park and the former Breakwater School near Capisic Street and Brighton Avenue.

Dougherty Field is also home to two Little League diamonds and a soccer field, a public pool, and the city skate park. There is also a community garden by the pool at the intersection of St. James and Douglass streets.

“The garden is a tremendous asset, but it is not the same as a park,” Murton said.

Hipple said Murton was among the Libbytown residents who brought the need for a playground to his attention when he joined the city staff more than two years ago.

The redesigned playground would be sited at the park’s southern end, near the former West School and Douglass Street. It would be adjacent to the ball fields, so younger siblings would have a place to play during games, Hipple said.

The new playground would give the neighbors a more immediate link to the park, Murton and Aceto said.

“It really is about community, creating and sustaining community,” Murton said.

Aceto said the effort has brought residents together, including those who have visited homes to pass out flyers after work.

“As you may know, our neighborhood is very much on the rise with lots of recent real estate turnovers, new families moving in, and engaged, proud longtime residents,” he said.

The skate park is also slated for expansion at a projected cost of $340,000, with the city paying $240,000 and the remainder raised privately. In the proposed fiscal year 2019 capital improvements budget, the city has allocated $50,000 to begin the expansion that would add 6,500 square feet to the skate park.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Libbytown residents are eager to see this Dougherty Field playground transformed into a neighborhood destination. Portland Deputy Parks Director Ethan Hipple said work could begin this fall if CDBG funding is approved by city councilors.

The draft concept for a new Dougherty Field playground was developed with assistance from Libbytown residents Nick and Caitlin Aceto. The final design has not been determined, but will be done with more neighborhood input.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.