South Portland asks public about priorities for Wilkinson Park

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Does the clubhouse at Wilkinson Park need a face-lift or a full-body reconstruction?

Neighbors of the 112 New York Avenue park and the general public are invited to give their opinions to Parks and Recreation Director Rick Towle at a 6 p.m. forum on Jan. 16 at the Community Center, 21 Nelson Road.

Rebuilding or renovating the clubhouse at the city-owned park has been a short-term goal for Towle almost since he was named parks and recreation director last summer.

The seven-acre park is home to the South Portland Little League, other athletic fields and trails bordered by the Interstate 295 Connector. The nearly 1,200-square-foot clubhouse, once used for gatherings and dances, is about 60 years old.

Its oil tank was removed in September, the kitchen is not up to current public health codes and the restrooms do not comply with accessibility standards. The knotty pine walls inside are homey, but Towle said the joists underneath the floor have been exposed to the elements and have deteriorated.

Last November, Towle outlined three choices to city councilors: repair the clubhouse, raze it and build a new one, or raze it in favor of an open-air pavilion.

The city has about $60,000 available for a clubhouse project. Towle offered a very preliminary cost estimate of $83,000 to build a clubhouse of the same size meeting current codes.

He said a pavilion could be used for eight or nine months a year and would fit in the current budget. Future pavilion improvements, including concessions and restrooms, are estimated to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 and could be part of annual capital improvements budgets.

After the forum, councilors could hear more definitive park plans at a Jan. 28 workshop. Towle said he would like work to begin this winter or spring.

Parking on New York Avenue has already been expanded by cutting down trees bordering the Little League diamond; city crews also cut down trees in the small playground beyond the outfield fence.

The park was donated to the city for recreational use by the Wilkinson family about 35 years ago, and named for the family in 1983.

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

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.