After seven years of planning, the first piece of a new community park and playground in the Nason’s Corner area of Portland was carefully dropped into place on Wednesday.

Workers assisted by a truck crane installed the first of three massive chunks of Maine granite – the smallest of which weighs 9 tons – that will comprise a child-sized climbing wall at renovated Nason’s Corner Park. When completed, the wall will be 20 feet long and 5 to 7 feet high.

Located behind Breakwater School near the intersection of Brighton Avenue and Capisic Street, the new playground will feature the sculpted granite climbing wall, swings, a jungle gym-like structure, a wooden fort, a tunnel, a bridge and other interactive features. Two adjacent ballfields will remain in place.

“Essentially, what you are going to see here in six months is a whole lot of color, a lot of things to do and hopefully a lot of people,” said Martha Thompson, outreach coordinator of the Nason’s Corner Park Greening Partnership.

The renovated park is intended to expand the outdoor recreation offerings in a part of Portland with limited green space. The project is a collaborative effort between the city, Portland Trails, Nason’s Corner Neighborhood Association and the Breakwater School, an independent day school.

Planning for what became a $600,000 renovation project began about seven years ago. Teachers at Breakwater School had begun talking about options for a more natural playground when the city notified the school that the existing playground was no longer up to code, said Kathy Damon, development director at the school.

The project has hit a few delays along the way, including late-fall snowstorms and a stubbornly long winter that forced organizers to postpone installing the granite climbing wall.

Quarried in Maine and sculpted by Freshwater Stone of Orland, the climbing wall consists of three granite slabs that will sit side by side and fit together to create a single rock structure.

One section of the wall features a large carved octopus appearing to emerge from the stone while the other sections feature hand- and foot-holds for climbing.

The first slab, weighing 18,000 pounds, arrived in Nason’s Corner on Wednesday without incident and was pre-positioned on the site using the truck crane. A truck hauling the other two massive sections got two flat tires while en route to Portland from Orland, however, so crews won’t complete the wall until Thursday.

Project organizers have raised more than $500,000 toward the $600,000 project, including a matching grant pledge of $250,000, Damon said.

Thompson said she hopes the part of the park around the granite wall will be complete by June with the full renovations done by September.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

[email protected]

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