There are rock walls to climb, tunnels to run through, logs to sit on and slides to go down at the new “natural” Nason’s Corner Park near Breakwater School in Portland.
“Umm, this is the best playground ever,” said Breakwater elementary student Zeke Appel while scaling the 7-foot granite climbing wall this week.
“We think it’s great!” agreed another elementary schooler, Liam Spalding.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Portland families and children will be able to enjoy the new playground – free of construction – along with a yoga class, pancake breakfast, face painting, raffles and more.
“Saturday in the Park” will be a way to celebrate first phase of the new park, while raising awareness – and funds – for the next stage of development, said Martha Thompson, an outreach coordinator for the project.
Plans for Portland’s newest park, located on the corner of Capisic Street and Brighton Avenue, have been in development for six years in a public-private partnership among the city of Portland, the Nason’s Corner Neighborhood Association, Breakwater School and Portland Trails’ School Ground Greening Coalition.
Funding for the park has come from individual donors and grants, including a $250,000 matching gift challenge from the Griswold Family Foundation. Rosemont Market & Bakery and Vitalius Real Estate also have been supporting the project with special deals and donations.
“(The playground) is designed to inspire creativity and natural play,” said Kathy Damon, director of development and external affairs at Breakwater School. “There’s lots of buildable parts for kids to sculpt and create.”
The climbing wall is made from Maine-quarried granite, with a dragonfly and octopus carved into the side. The park also includes a metal slide, a tunnel built into a hill, two sandbox play areas and an outdoor classroom area.
“The kids have been having a blast so far,” Damon said.
In the next few weeks, the park, which is about halfway through construction, will also get a suspension bridge, a hilltop fort and a climbing structure to help build the kids’ upper arm strength. While the playground includes new equipment, Damon said that the metal slide and a few other items are being reused.
“The park will continue to be a work in progress until we have a ribbon cutting sometime in October,” Thompson said.
Phase 2 of the project includes building an adjacent park for toddlers, an open-air stage and another outdoor classroom, as well as planting a garden. That phase is expected to be completed by next summer.
For the event Saturday, families are encouraged to bring bikes for free tuneups by Portland Gear Hub, and books for a book swap hosted by the Maine Humanities Council. There will also be a critter parade, nature crafts, field games, fairy house building and face painting.
“(Saturday) is the first day of public school vacation, the first day of summer and the weather’s going to be perfect,” Damon said. “There will be something for everyone.”
Chelsea Diana can be contacted at 791-6337 or at: