ELLSWORTH — A work crew broke ground on the Knowlton Park Senior Fitness Playground on April 29, following five years of planning and fundraising by Friends in Action. Two years into the project, the city’s Planning Department came on board.
“We’re really, really thrilled,” Friends in Action Executive Director Jo Cooper said. “The timing is perfect.”
Friends in Action is an Ellsworth-based nonprofit organization that supports seniors and people with disabilities across Hancock County with programs, services and activities.
Cooper came across the senior playground concept close to 10 years ago.
“I got super excited,” she said. “I just loved the idea of older people doing fun stuff. At the time it went against the thought of what you do when you get older.”
The eight pieces of equipment will be installed over the next month, “and some of the equipment is designed to be used by somebody in a wheelchair, which is cool,” Cooper said.
And, located just beyond the pavilion, Cooper said the playground will be accessible to the entire community and is nearby senior housing and Seaport Village assisted living center.
In addition to the play equipment, there will also be game tables for checkers, chess and cards.
In full, Friends in Action raised $40,000 from private donations and small, matching grants, including through the AARP Age-Friendly Ellsworth effort and the Ellsworth Rotary Club. Meanwhile, the city applied for and won a $40,000 matching grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Land &Water Conservation Fund
“I think it might have been much more limited without the city’s interest in the project,” Cooper said. That interest included council approval to site the playground, which will be owned by the city, at the public park.
While help came from throughout the community in raising the full match for the state grant, “We had a major donor who really put it over the top,” Cooper said. “It’s a lot for a small organization to raise funds for something like this.”
With some overages on the project, Cooper said Friends in Action is still accepting donations for the project, which should be completed by early June.
“We want to be exercising but we’re worried about being inside,” she noted.