Ocean Park Association Officer Deb Guimont, Ocean Park Director Jerry Gosselin, and Ocean Park Educational Bureau member Susan Evans stand in front of the Ocean Park Library Wednesday afternoon.

Ocean Park Association Officer Deb Guimont, Ocean Park Director Jerry Gosselin, and Ocean Park Educational Bureau member Susan Evans stand in front of the Ocean Park Library Wednesday afternoon.

OCEAN PARK — The outdoor shuffleboard courts in Ocean Park have been in existence “Since our grandparents played on them, and (now) we’re grandparents,” said Ocean Park Association officer Deb Guimont.

Like the shuffleboard courts not much has changed in Ocean Park, which was founded in 1881 under the auspices of Free Will Baptists. The seaside community, located on the southeastern corner of Old Orchard Beach, is one of 17 Chautauqua communities in the United States and Canada; it has events and activities based on the four pillars of religion, education, recreation and arts. The Chautauqua movement began at Lake Chautauqua, New York in 1874. According to the Chautauqua website, there have been recent efforts to revive Chautauqua communities that became inactive in the 1930s.

A sitting area at the Ocean Park Library, as seen on Wednesday afternoon.

A sitting area at the Ocean Park Library, as seen on Wednesday afternoon.

The time-honored traditions going back to the foundation of Ocean Park are critical, and many families and friends have been coming back to spend summer vacations and connect for decades. Part of its quiet charm is that not much has seemed to change over the years, and going to Ocean Park is like stepping back to a time when things were simpler.

The Ocean Park Association hopes to sustain that quiet charm through a 2 1/2 year capital campaign to maintain some of the community’s buildings and infrastructure, which is currently coming to an end.

Some of the buildings that are well known and loved by Ocean Park members were in need of upgrades. A campaign committee, which Ocean Parks Association member Susan Evans co-chaired and that Guimont was a member of, selected the top renovations needed on the Ocean Park Association and Ocean Park Educational Bureau’s buildings. Meetings were held throughout the year, and those in the off-season often had telecommuters from members who spend the winters out of state.

“We have a lot of old wonderful buildings,” said Evans, who is also a member of the Ocean Park Educational Bureau. She said that association members take pride in them, so it was important that the buildings maintain their character after restorations were completed.

The capital campaign, “Restore and Renew our Village” raised just $28,000 shy of $1 million, said Guimont. Though money raised fell short of the original $1.2 million goal, members are satisfied with the amount raised and the generosity of the 318 households that gave to the campaign.

Ocean Park Association Executive Director Jerry Gosselin said there are about 570 members of the association. The campaign began in “dubious economic times,” and the participation level in the fundraising effort speaks highly of association members.

Contributors gave money in one time or continual pledges, or purchased granite stone pavers in the brick walkway to the library that are inscribed in a loved one’s memory.

The pavers proved to be very popular, said Guimont and Evans. Guimont explained that extended families and friends from across the country and beyond plan summer vacations in Ocean Park to reconnect. Someone might not be able to get to grandma’s grave in Vermont, but they’ll always be able to get to her paver at Ocean Park, she said.

“It’s the place you come back to, no matter where you are in the world,” said Evans.

One building that has been renovated is Jakeman Hall, which houses the Ocean Park Association office, Ocean Park Realty and Ocean Park Post Office and was originally built for a seasonal restaurant, said Evans. The cooling and heating systems were not adequate, offices were separated by room dividers and lacked sufficient privacy, and doors had signs of rot.

A large fireplace in the recreation hall was also pulling the wall off the building, said Evans and Guimont. Over the years, there had been attempts to rectify the situation, but no solution was found until the chimney was torn down. The stone fireplace that everyone remembers remains inside the hall as an ornamental fixture.

The library, which is located in the center of the village square, had an airconditioning system put in – a move that not only makes the facility more comfortable, but will help preserve the books, said Gosselin.

Other buildings, including the Curtis Guest House, which dates back to the 1880s, had some miscellaneous renovations and technology updates.

Guimont said when working with old buildings and infrastructure, there are always going to be surprises along the way. There were some good surprises, like finding beautiful wood floors in the library underneath worn out carpeting, and some not so good surprises, such as a drainage project at the shuffleboard courts that turned out to be more challenging to complete than expected.

On Sunday, the official close of the capital campaign will be recognized. A ceremony, with music by the Temple Brass Ensemble, will take place following the morning worship service at around 11:45 a.m. in the village square.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


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