DEXTER, Maine — When the old Dexter playground in Crosby Park outlived its usefulness, the town had no choice but to dismantle it last month. “It was 20 years old and made from pressure-treated lumber,” said Recreation Director Jimmy Bell. “We took everything down except the swings.”
Thanks to several fundraising events and direct contributions, the Dexter Playground Committee has raised about $32,000 toward their goal of $130,000. This includes a $10,000 transfer from the town’s building improvement reserve account approved by the Town Council on June 13.
The next major step will be a Playground Build Day starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 29. “We have about $25,000 in equipment so far, stored in an airport hangar,” Bell said. “So we’re going to bring it over to the park that day. The more help we get, the faster it will go.”
The equipment includes a climbing unit, six swings, a 10-person merry-go-round, a treehouse-type climber for 2- to 5-year-olds, four park benches and three “surfers,” or surfboards on springs.
While the committee still needs to raise close to $100,000 to meet its goal, Bell said that he’s more than pleased with the progress. “We’ll have something for the kids to use this summer. We won’t have everything we want, but we’re still plugging away,” Bell said.
Major contributors so far include Plum Creek Timber Corp., Bangor Savings Bank, Skowhegan Savings, Walmart and the Abbot Memorial Library Board of Trustees.
A haunted house was held at Abbott Hill Complex, the old Dexter school site owned by Gerard Marshall, last October which raised $1,700, said Bell.
In addition, McKusick Construction, Wyman Construction, Steve Lawson Construction and the town’s public works department have donated 90 percent of the labor for the playground project, Bell said. “Plus, Hardwood Products [in Guilford] will be donating the wood chips,” he added.
Committee member Sue Hill has been seeking grants for the playground, but said it’s a difficult task. “We’ve been turned down many times because some foundations don’t fund playgrounds anymore, or they just have different priorities,” Hill said. So the committee came up with some creative ideas to raise money.
One of the most successful ventures was Heart of Maine Idol, a grade K-12 talent show held at Ridge View Community School on March 30 that raised $5,000. Another one is planned for later this year.
Businesses funded the show at three different levels starting with gold sponsorship. Hill said that while gold sponsorship was only $75, H.H. Brown Shoe Co., which occupies part of the old Dexter Shoe complex, donated $1,000.
A Family Fun Day is planned for Sept. 7 at Crosby Park with several businesses and organizations setting up booths and helping with kids’ games. A bottle drive is ongoing; and those who want to donate can drop off their empties at Dexter Redemption.
For Hill, who moved to Dexter recently from Presque Isle, the playground represents a big chunk of the town’s future. “So much was taken away from this town when Dexter Shoe closed. It’s almost like we’re a forgotten community,” Hill said. “My personal goal is to see that children have someplace to play because healthy exercise is so important. Dexter is a nice town, but there’s very little for kids to do here.”