About 40 volunteers joined last weekend’s “permablitz,” where they helped prepare the soil, planted trees and herbs, installed a willow fence and more. Contributed / Rachel Lyn Rumson

An abandoned lot in Gray’s Village Historic District is getting a facelift as a new micropark that features fruit trees, a community garden and a shady pavilion.

Since the town acquired the abandoned 0.3-acre lot at 5 Yarmouth Road in 2013 it has primarily been used as a cut-through by drivers wanting to avoid the traffic light at the nearby intersection of Routes 202, 115 and 100.

Volunteers installed colorful birdhouses last weekend as a part of the town’s Birdhouse Project. Contributed / Rachel Lyn Rumson

The town received just over $51,000 from the Cumberland County Community Development Program in February 2020 to build a micropark and resting spot for pedestrians. The project is funded through the grant program, in-kind donations and volunteer manpower.

The park was designed by Gray resident Rachel Lyn Rumson of 207Permaculture. Her design transforms the site from a bare, compacted dirt lot to a mini oasis within walking distance from a number of points in the center of town.

“It is more than a beautification effort; it is about building soil together and building community,” Rumson wrote in her design plan.

In a survey of residents conducted by the Community Economic Development Committee earlier this year, one resident called the location “an eyesore” while others commented that they would love to see more community-centered spaces in town.

Another survey respondent said that the community garden aspect of the project is what excites them most: “I have been food insecure in my life and it has made me very passionate about food security and the importance of gardening and growing my own food, as well as teaching myself how to preserve some of it.”

Someone else said working on the park would be a way for their family to “contribute to the community.”

Plans call for a covered shelter with a picnic table; “edible hedges” with blueberries, seaberries and nannyberries; fruit trees in a mini orchard; a colorful birdhouse village and a “food forest” community garden. There will also be a two-car parking lot.

The project is now in phase two of four, Rumson said this week.

Volunteers last week turned out for a “permablitz,” which Rumson said is akin to a “modern-day barn-raising.” About 40 people helped prep the soil for vegetation, planted trees and herbs, built a willow fence and installed the birdhouses.

The birdhouses were donated by residents and are part of another effort from the town’s Community Economic Development Committee to “celebrate community connection and promote wellness in COVID times.”

Also in phase two, E.L.K. Construction will install the “Pollinator Pavilion,” a timber-frame structure with a cedar-shingle roof that will have a picnic table, rain barrels to collect rainwater and a mini orchard.

Rumson said that the park’s completion date is dependent on how things grow and she hopes to host two more permablitzes in the fall and next spring.

Rachel Lyn Rumson of 207Permaculture in Gray designed the micropark at 5 Yarmouth Road. The project is funded by approximately $51,000 from the Cumberland County Community Development Program and in-kind donations from area businesses. Contributed / Rachel Lyn Rumson

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