Guest Blog by Ted Walworth, Chairman of the Friends of Pettingill
Friends of Pettingill is an organization comprised of former students and parents of students, even some grandparents, plus former teachers and neighbors who have appreciated the presence of the school and its playground and feel that the entire site of the former Pettingill School should be converted into a public park. Pettingill was replaced in 2008 by the Geiger School, about a mile further north along College Street. The playground has continued to be a popular gathering spot for neighborhood children and their parents.
Other uses of the school were contemplated, but over time the buildings deteriorated to a point beyond salvage and during the past few months they have been demolished. Once the snow melts, the final grading and seeding will be done and the temporary fencing can be removed, allowing access once again to the playground.
This group of Lewiston residents is currently advocating to City Council for approval to create a park. The Council will vote on the issue at its upcoming meeting on March 4. Although the Councilors are happy to preserve the playground that occupies a corner of the property, some of them feel that given this time of tight budgets and limited revenue, a better course would be to sell off the remaining one half or two thirds of the land as house lots. Mayor Robert Macdonald favors the conversion to a full two-acre park.
So in the context of smart growth, here is an example of where we think the smart thing to do is to grow grass and trees rather than houses. It is true that more homes in an area already developed might prevent some sprawl in the outer reaches of Lewiston, but on balance the preservation of green space and the expansion of a neighborhood resource outweighs that consideration. This area, fairly close to the Bates College campus, will enhance the extended neighborhood by encouraging walking, bicycling, play on a small field, the gathering of friends on new benches, the creation of new friendships, and so forth – an incubator of social capital and a generator of health for children of all ages.
This project has been endorsed by Healthy Androscoggin and Community Concepts. We feel that it fits the mission of GrowSmart as well.
For a further look at our chronology, artist renderings of the park, and a slew of testimonials in support, please see the "Friends of Pettingill" page on Facebook.
If any reader of this blog is in agreement and can convey their support to Mayor MacDonald and the Lewiston City Council, they are most welcome to do so.
*** Update: On March 4th, the Lewiston City Council voted 6-1 to allow the conversion of the schoolyard into a full 2-acre park. There was a provison that the City would not be responsible for capital improvements, so our work has hardly begun. The full details are on the FoP Facebook page.