PATTEN, Maine — Thanks to a $5,000 grant from Poland Spring, Patten Academy Park received a bit of a makeover Thursday as part of the water company’s “Calling 207” project.
The park was buzzing with activity Thursday as representatives from Poland Spring joined numerous community volunteers and third-graders from Katahdin Elementary School.
“All of our raised flower beds were falling apart,” said Susan Adams, a member of the Patten Area Women’s Club and resident of Patten. “We have wanted to rebuild them for a long time, but it was too expensive.”
One of her friends, a retired worker with Poland Spring, tipped Adams off to a new initiative the company began where communities could receive a $5,000 grant. Adams applied, and her project won an online vote as one of five projects in the state to receive funds.
“This past summer we have been touring around the state of Maine with our ‘Hydration Station’ asking people, ‘How can Poland Spring give back to your community,’” said Sara Mayer, brand manager for Poland Spring based out of Stamford, Connecticut. “We had a range of ideas from dog parks to gardens to repainting of prominent buildings.”
All of the entries were placed on a website for the public to vote on, with the Patten project named one of the top-five vote getters. Other winners were: a “natural classroom” in Bowdoinham; reading garden at Atwood Elementary School in Oakland; beautifying Skowhegan; and Riverbend Farm in Saco.
“This project in Patten is actually the first one we are doing,” Mayer said. “This is just the perfect project to help the town and bring the community together. I am even more excited that we have elementary kids here today to help.”
Ralph Heath was one of those third-graders working at the site Thursday morning.
“This is fun and cool,” he said. “So far, we have done handprints for a sign, but I am looking forward to pounding some nails.”
Kiki Conklin, another third-grader working on the flower beds, said, “I like to play in this park, mostly with my friends. I really like the T-shirts they (Poland Spring) gave us.”
Twenty-one flower beds were created and will be raised more than a foot off the ground. Community members will be able to plant flowers in the new beds if they so choose.
“This way, people won’t have to lean over and bend down so much to plant flowers,” Adams explained. “And people in wheelchairs can also participate as they will all be ADA accessible.”
“I think the flower beds were initially placed about 35 years ago,” said Judie McArthur, a member of the Patten Area Women’s Club and a graduate of Patten Academy. “It is owned by the town of Patten, but we maintain much of the park. We have been trying for grant money for the past couple of years to get this project done.”
“There are a lot of people that come here and enjoy the gardens,” said Terry Pettengill of the Patten Area Women’s Club. “They come here for lunch or just come and sit.”
Patten Academy Park once served as the home of Patten Academy, a small high school that educated Patten youth from 1847-1967. The school was torn down in the late 1970s and a bell tower monument was erected in 1986.
Adams said she hopes the project can be the launching point for a number of renovations for Patten Academy Park.
“Our tennis courts have grass growing up through them and the playground is a bit old,” she said. “Some people have also thought it would be a great place for a splash pad.”
Adams said she was grateful for all of the volunteers who turned out Thursday since one of the stipulations of the award was that the project had to be completed in just one day. The Patten Area Women’s Club sponsored a picnic lunch for the volunteers and Mak’s Coffee in Patten also provided some refreshments.
Coast of Maine Compost donated compost and Richardsons Hardware provided equipment and staff for the project. Bruce Bradeen of Stacyville milled cedar for the flower beds and Greg Smallwood contributed site preparations and removal of the old timbers.
“It has been a true community collaboration from the start to make this happen,” Adams said.