ELLSWORTH — A playground of free-standing stationary bicycles, an elliptical machine and outdoor game tables, all walker and wheelchair-accessible? Hold the slides — this is a playground for seniors at Knowlton Park. City councilors on Nov. 16 unanimously approved bid contracts for the playground’s equipment and installation.
Growing in popularity across the United States and already a standard in some European countries, this new type of playground offers outdoor exercise at a level appropriate for the senior set. Jo Cooper, executive director of local nonprofit Friends in Action, set the project in motion several years ago, with help from the city Planning Department. Councilors had previously approved the project itself, which will be funded through grants, donations and fundraising dollars already in hand.
An initial $3,500 challenge grant from AARP was matched “dollar by dollar” by donations from individuals, the Rotary Club, raffles and “other fundraising efforts that reached an eventual $40,000,” Cooper said. The city then applied for a matching Maine Land and Water Conservation Grant “as a way to make it happen.”
At Monday’s City Council meeting, councilors approved contracting with Greenfield Outdoor Fitness, one of two bids for the equipment, for approximately $78,000.
“After review, Greenfield was the only one that supplied everything that was requested,” said Public Works Director Lisa Sekulich, who helped with the project after the city planner resigned last month.
An additional $2,605 was approved for four outdoor game boards, for chess or cribbage, from TripleA, and no more than $46,498 to R.F. Jordan and Sons for installation, to include site prep, drainage, grade adjustments and concrete foundations for equipment.
The playground will be built to the left of the pergola, between the pergola and the amphitheater.
A resident emailed councilors to ask about safety issues, “especially the night issues” at the park. Interim City Manager Glenn Moshier noted the park “is pretty heavily monitored” by camera and patrols. “We would expect to continue the same level of enforcement,” he said.
With the Friends in Action Senior Center at the Moore Community Center closed since August, Cooper also asked for a clearer lease between the Down East Family YMCA and Friends in Action. The YMCA leases the Moore Center building from the city, and Friends in Action leased space for its office and senior center. When COVID-19 forced local schools to turn to a hybrid remote learning model this fall, the YMCA placed an expanded child care program at the Moore Center to support remote learning, taking over space that had been used for the senior center. Subsequent discussions involving the city, the YMCA and Friends in Action resolved the issue only in that the YMCA moved ahead with its plans.
“There was a process, but it happened late in the game,” Council Chairman Dale Hamilton said.