$22,000 state grant, $14,000 in donations push Londonderry park nearer to revitalization

 

By Cynthia Prairie

With the awarding on Tuesday, Nov. 12, of a state grant for $22,000 and donations thus far reaching almost $14,000, the Londonderry Parks Board has passed the halfway mark of its goal of $63,600 to revitalize Pingree Park. Pingree Park is a 16-acre recreation area off Route 11 and Stowell Hill Road and behind the Riverside Cemetery in Londonderry.

Park signs at Stowell Hill Road.

Park signs at Stowell Hill Road. Click any photo to launch the gallery.
Photos by Cynthia Prairie

In early August, the Londonderry Parks Board – Pamela Ameden, Colleen Gometz, Debbie O’Leary, Kelly Pajala and Susie Wyman – was appointed by the Londonderry Select Board to help revitalize three Londonderry public parks. Unlike some larger towns such as Chester – at 3,100, its population is almost three times that of Londonderry – Londonderry does not have a own parks department, and relies on volunteers to provide support.

In the three months and a half months since its appointment, the parks board has been raising private matching funds, hoping to reach a goal of $25,000. As of Tuesday, member Kelly Pajala said matching fund donations were almost $14,000, and the group is planning more fund-raising efforts, including a Valentine’s Day dance at Magic Mountain with a 10-piece band. If the board doesn’t reach its full $25,000 match, Pajala, who is also town clerk, said the Londonderry Select Board has agreed to put the issue on the March ballot to fill that gap. It has also agreed to help pay for park maintenance from the town general fund. And the parks board also intends to apply for more grant money, Pajala said.

As of this past weekend, the old playset has been taken down, but not yet removed.

As of this past weekend, the old playset has been taken down, but not yet removed.

Replacing children’s playground

The single most expensive piece of the Pingree project will be the children’s playground, with a $22,600 play structure to replace one that was recently taken down after 11 years. Pajala said the old playset had “moisture issues since it sits in a basin.” Wooden posts, she said, were rotting because there was no drainage. The new structure will have metal posts with plastic parts and “we’ll put in drains at the low points.”

Pingree playset

Plans for the new playset.

Planners are estimating the wood mulch base and moisture barrier for the play area will cost $6,000. In addition to the new structure, planners are hoping to build a six-unit swing set complete with infant and handicap accessible seats, a new see-saw and a crawl tube. The total cost for the children’s playground is $34,559.

The parks board is also hoping to resurface the tennis courts and replace the net, the basketball court’s backboards and hoops and benches as well as add signage. It hopes to begin construction in the spring 2014.

The millstone at Pingree Park says: This park is dedicated Nov. 1, 1981 to Elizabeth G. Pingree MD. Devoted physician and friend to the people of Londonderry.

The millstone at Pingree Park says: This park is dedicated Nov. 1, 1981 to Elizabeth G. Pingree MD. Devoted physician and friend to the people of Londonderry.

Pajala said a planned dog park – which will be one of only a handful of publicly owned, enclosed off-leash dog parks in all of Vermont – will be part of Phase II. The closest such park is in Manchester Center, and most are far up north. Pajala said the dog park will be great for attracting adults to the recreation area. “You don’t have to have children to use the park,” she said.

Pingree Park was created from two parcels, one donated and one bought from Rex Doane in the 1970s. It was dedicated in 1981 in honor of Elizabeth Pingree, a physician to the town of Londonderry.

If you’d like to donate to the Pingree Park effort, make checks out to Londonderry Town Park Fund, and mail them to Londonderry Town Hall, 100 Old School St., South Londonderry, VT 05155.

For more information or to volunteer, email: londonderrytownparks@gmail.com.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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