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Copyright 2018 Sun Journal Nov 12, 2018
Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
LEWISTON — A universally accessible playground, allowing children of all abilities to play alongside one another, is finally getting the ribbon-cutting treatment Wednesday at Marcotte Park.
For state Sen. Nate Libby of Lewiston, who's been one of the lead advocates and fundraisers for the project, the playground represents a unique milestone for Maine, but also an exciting opportunity for his family.
In September, as crews were breaking ground on the project, the City Council approved naming the playground Jude's Place at Marcotte Park in honor of Libby's son Jude, who has cerebral palsy.
"My family is over the moon excited for this project to conclude and be open to all kids to play," Nate Libby said Monday. "There's been enormous support from community members and community organizations."
It will be Maine's first public universally-accessible playground, meaning it's fully wheelchair-accessible, among other features.
The ribbon-cutting will take place at 11 a.m., with remarks from Libby and Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard.
When the project got off the ground in 2012, it received funding from California-based Shane's Inspiration, a nonprofit organization that helps build playgrounds that are accessible to all children, regardless of their physical ability.
According to the city, the transformation of Marcotte Park was a complete renovation, including different grades, landscape, surface material, and play equipment. To make it universally accessible, the site has a specially designed layout, including a rubberized playground surface and 19 pieces of play equipment.
Marcotte Park is the triangle plot east of the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, where Jefferson, Caron and Birch streets meet.
Libby said he began fundraising for the project with help from city officials after the project had been foundering for a few years. Working closely with Lewiston Community Relations Coordinator Dot Perham-Whittier, the project raised several thousand dollars in private donations and grants.
"Wednesday will be the culmination of all that work," Libby said, recognizing the dozens of individual contributions and local organizations that made the difference. "It's kind of a big deal, and it's hard to believe."
Others on board with the project include Lewiston Public Schools, Sandcastle Clinical and Educational Services, Promise Early Education Center (Head Start), The Margaret Murphy Center for Children, and Healthy Androscoggin.
Libby said he plans to bring Jude to the ribbon-cutting. He said Jude has attended Pine Tree Camp in Rome, where there is also a universally-accessible playground. He said it Jude's first experience with one, and served as inspiration for advocating for the public playground in Lewiston.
Along with private donations, the city also secured roughly $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant money on top of a $30,000 National Recreation & Parks Association/Walt Disney grant.
"This playground has been dear to my heart ever since I received the Shane's contest promotional postcard in 2011," Perham-Whittier said. "It's been exciting to see people step forward to keep the dream alive and never give up until we became the first-in-Maine universally accessible playground."
Throughout the fall, Gorrill Palmer & Gordon Contracting Inc., with help from Lewiston Public Works, has been doing the construction.
Also scheduled to speak Wednesday are Marnie Norris from Shane's Inspiration, Christine Adler from Promise Early Education and Lewiston Superintendent of Schools Bill Webster.
According to the city, Norris will collaborate with the Lewiston School Department to help incorporate playground-related learning to promote "all children, regardless of abilities, playing together."
According to Perham-Whittier, more than 16 percent of the roughly 5,500 students enrolled in Lewiston schools are children with special needs.
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