Presque Isle kicks off fundraising for revitalized Peace Park

1 month ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – If all goes well, downtown Presque Isle could have a new dog park and children’s playground at Peace Park within the next year.

Located near the entrance to Skyway Industrial Park, on the corner of Parsons Street and Central Drive, Peace Park first opened in 1983. Peace Park gets its name from a former group of 15 county residents, known as the Aroostook Peace Action Committee, who advocated for the park and planted 20 trees there as a symbol of peace during the ongoing Cold War.

At least 20 years have passed since the city last upgraded playground equipment at Peace Park, which currently has two swing sets and a basketball court. The city has launched a fundraiser to fully modernize and add to the park, said Gene Cronin, director of Presque Isle Recreation & Parks.

On Saturday, Cronin, city leaders and community volunteers gathered at Sargent Family Community Center to announce the Peace Park project and encourage people to donate. 

For phase one of the park upgrades, the city hopes to raise $175,000 to install the dog park, adult outdoor fitness equipment, an aviation-themed playground for children aged five to 12, a water fountain and dog rinsing station, dog waste dispensers, picnic tables and benches and a new basketball court.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — June 15, 2024 — A rendering of Peace Park’s future children’s playground was on display at Sargent Family Community Center Saturday. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Prior to the formal launch, the Peace Park committee raised $115,000 for a new gravel driveway, which will be paved in a later stage of the project. The city also installed new fencing that will enclose the future dog park.

Cronin said that if fundraising is successful, the dog park, playground and other features could be open to the public by next summer.

“We’re hoping to open the dog park and playground as soon as possible,” Cronin said. “The goal is to work on this in stages.”

Phase two of the Peace Park upgrades will include new light fixtures, security cameras and more fencing along Parsons Street. Phase three will include finishing a .2-mile and 38-foot wide walking path, more lights, parking lot asphalt and restrooms. A later fundraising effort will aim to raise $750,000 to complete those phases.

City Manager Tyler Brown said that an improved Peace Park will enhance that part of downtown and offer more amenities to residents and visitors.

“It will be a place for people to gather and exercise, and to play with their dogs,” Brown said. “People always want these green spaces in their communities, so it will be a tremendous asset.”

Saturday’s kickoff featured a dog theme. Residents gathered with their furry friends for a community walk around the Mary’s Mile loop trail, watch training and obedience demonstrations and take selfies with their dogs.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — June 15, 2024 — Hillary Lundgren of Chapman and her black lab Maui (left) pose for selfies with friend Tracey Ostlund of Presque Isle and her yellow lab Sophie outside Sargent Family Community Center to celebrate the city’s future dog park. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Hillary Lundgren of Chapman and her black lab, Maui, and Tracey Ostlund of Presque Isle, with her yellow lab Sophie, took selfies together.

“We’re very excited [about the dog park],” Lundgren said. “It will be a great place for people to go with their pets.”

The city will dedicate the dog park in memory of Presque Isle resident Erica Hemphill, who passed away in 2021 at age 27 from an undiagnosed brain tumor.

Her mother Kelly Hemphill told the crowd Saturday that her daughter was a “vibrant and compassionate” person who loved animals and would have likely gotten involved in creating the dog park.

“She would have loved to see the park take shape and would have been a regular visitor, surrounded by a lot of furry friends,” Kelly Hemphill said.

Those wishing to donate or learn more about the Peace Park project should contact Cronin at gcronin@presqueisleme.us.