Atlantic Courts Park in Old Orchard Beach is about to undergo a significant makeover after the Community Friendly Connection secured a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant for the project. Celebrating on a recent day were Helene Whittaker, Pat Brown, V. Louise Reid and Holly Korda, all of Community Friendly Connection, and Don Hill, who approached the group with his idea of spearheading an effort to rejuvenate the park. Tammy Wells PhotoOLD ORCHARD BEACH — Don Hill drove by the Atlantic Courts Park some time ago and thought back to his youth, when he and his friends would play basketball there.

“I saw the crumbling, rusty fence, and at the time, the backboard was broken,” Hill recalled.

The park, on a narrow residential street in what is now called the Washington Square Neighborhood, was tired and run down.

“At one point, this was a nice little spot,” he said.

The good news is that it will be a nice little spot again – perhaps by the end of November.

Old Orchard Beach Community Friendly Connection has secured a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant to spruce up the park, to make it more usable and inviting. And there’s a bonus for those in this residential community – a nicer-looking park.

Pat Brown, one of the facilitators of OOBCFC, said the plan includes a resurfaced basketball court, a new retaining wall, an area for exercise equipment, a bench or two for quiet contemplation, picnic tables and a handicap accessible picnic table — along with a handicap accessible entrance to the park, a rack where kids and adults can stow their bicycles, fresh plantings, and more.

The effort to give a lift to the old park is part of a wider effort to rejuvenate the neighborhood.

OOBCFC Chair and Assistant Town Manager V. Louise Reid came here more than 60 years ago with her husband Robert as the community’s first Salvation Army officers.

“This was the center of town in 1958,” she recalled of the neighborhood,  at the park on Thursday, Aug. 6. There was a hardware store, along with a drug store, a dry-cleaning establishment, market, and more.

The name Washington Square was chosen through an informal vote of residents a year ago.

The park and dismay over its tired condition had been raised by neighbors on many occasions, and those who live nearby expressed concern about it to the OOB Neighborhood Watch Committee — and then went ahead and raised more than $900 to help in the effort.

Subsequent meetings with abutters and others resulted in a plan to create a space for all ages to enjoy, said Brown in an outline of the history of the park project and the Washington Square Neighborhood rejuvenation.

Brown said abutter meetings turned into nicely attended neighborhood meetings that provided a unified, planned direction.

“This did not happen overnight,” said Brown, in part. “And (it) is the result of a great deal of input from area residents. And so this is very clear to everyone this effort is not just about Atlantic Courts Park; it is about rejuvenating the vitality of the entire Washington Square area.”

Volunteer help will be needed, she said.

As well as those in the neighborhood, others have pitched in as well. AARP, Maine Red Claws, and the Salvation Army have also provided financial help — terms of the grant include a 25 percent local match.

Holly Korda wrote the grant, and said those she dealt with at the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development were supportive and helpful.

“It’s an investment in this community,” Korda said.

Even in its current rundown state, the basketball court remains popular. With the coronavirus  pandemic, the park had been closed to play until Wednesday, Aug. 5 — and OOBCFC members said young people were playing basketball on the court that afternoon.

Those who wish to volunteer, and those who may have photos of the park and the play there during its heyday are invited to contact: [email protected] or call Reid at: 934-5714, ext. 1526.

Brown, addressing the Old Orchard Beach Town Council, which voted to accept the grant on Aug. 4, said the support the project has received has been remarkable and heartwarming.

“I can’t thank the group enough, and those who came out to support (the project),” said Town Council Chair Shawn O’Neil.

What’s next?

“We finalize the details and put it out to bid, and then we all roll up our sleeves,” said Brown.

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