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Land Trust Donates Playground Funding to City

posted Jul 6, 2017, 11:09 AM by South Portland Land Trust   [ updated Jul 6, 2017, 11:13 AM ]
On July 5, South Portland Land Trust President, Kate Lewis, presented South Portland Mayor, Patti Smith, with a donation of $55,886 for the purchase and installation of a new playground in Sawyer Park at the corner of Main and Westbrook Streets in the Thornton Heights neighborhood.  They were joined by South Portland Land Trust Program Manager, Dugan Murphy, South Portland Parks and Recreation Director, Kevin Adams, and South Portland City Manager, Scott Morelli.


The contribution comes from a fund created by the South Portland Land Trust in 2015 for the improvement and ongoing maintenance of Sawyer Park.  Most contributions to this fund have come from members of the neighboring Congregation Bet Ha’am.


“We’re exited for the possibilities here for meeting residents’ recreational and open space needs in a part of the city that enjoys a disproportionately low acreage of park or green space,” said South Portland Land Trust President, Kate Lewis.  “This is along one of the corridors that serves as a gateway to South Portland.”


Representatives from Congregation Bet Ha’am synagogue, the South Portland Land Trust, and South Portland Parks and Recreation have been meeting since early 2016 to discuss possibilities for the new 2.3-acre Sawyer Park at the corner of Main and Westbrook Streets in the Thornton Heights neighborhood.  All three entities were instrumental in permanently preserving the City-owned open space in 2015 after the City received a development proposal for the property.


“We are thrilled to support the improvement of the park in this way.  The congregation’s vision was always to have this be a community space, including a playground, for all to enjoy,” said Sharon Newman, Past President of Congregation Bet Ha’am.


“This collaboration brought together the necessary resources to make improvements happen here,” said South Portland Land Trust Program Manager, Dugan Murphy.  “Everyone has brought something to the table.”


Formerly a playing field for Sawyer Elementary School, the property was used in 2016 as a laydown yard for the sewer and stormwater improvement work recently completed nearby.  Upon completion of that infrastructure work, the City built two pedestrian entrances to the park, placed benches, and planted trees and grass.  


Former South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey signed a conservation easement with the South Portland Land Trust in November, 2015, protecting Sawyer Park as an open space for public enjoyment.


Congregation Bet Ha’am is a center for Reform Judaism primarily serving about 350 families engaged in Jewish life and learning, and is located adjacent to the new Sawyer Park. The congregation offers regular opportunities for music and prayer and an open and progressive approach to ritual. Their building has won national awards for its cutting-edge environmental and architectural design.  To learn more about Bet Ha’am, visit www.bethaam.org.


Pictured in the photo above L-R: Dugan Murphy, South Portland Land Trust Program Manager; Kevin Adams, South Portland Parks and Recreation Director; Patti Smith, South Portland Mayor; Chris Morelli, South Portland City Manager; Kate Lewis, South Portland Land Trust President; Sharon Newman, Congregation Bet Ha’am Past President.  Photo courtesy of The Sentry.



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