WELLS, Maine – On Tuesday afternoon, children played behind the Wells Activity Center on Sanford Road, throwing a soccer ball, climbing a snowdrift and hanging out near a fort they built with sticks and tree branches.
They seemed to be enjoying themselves, these local students from Wells Elementary School participating in the town’s before and after school program. Imagine the fun they will have this fall, if everything goes as planned and a new playground is installed on the property.
On Tuesday, Parks and Recreation Director Tina LeBlanc said her department hopes to have the new 2,500-square-foot playground installed later this year.
“We’re hoping to get it before school starts in the fall,” LeBlanc said.
The playground will offer climbing equipment, a slide, slides and swings, according to LeBlanc. She said she hoped the project could go to tender soon, perhaps after the planning board held a workshop on the project on February 14.
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LeBlanc said the city hopes to order parts for the playground in late February or early March, but is preparing for a delay due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on manufacturing and shipping.
On Monday, LeBlanc appeared before the planning committee, which reported on the results of its Jan. 15 site visit and decided on the next steps for the project.
City engineer Michael Livingston said no scorers attended the site visit, although some residents west of the project submitted emails worrying about the pads the new playing field would have .
Livingston said a 6-foot fence is offered along the entire rear of the playing field, with a few segments added for the corner as well. Currently there is no fencing on the site and children are kept away by the placement of orange cones which they have been instructed not to pass.
Livingston said the plantings will also provide a buffer between the playground and neighbors.
It is proposed to build the playground behind the activity center, on a currently wooded lot.
“The plan is to remove the existing trees and stumps there and replace them with 4 inches of mulch to make a soft landing for the kids on the playground equipment,” Livingston said.
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The council voted to waive a boundary survey and unanimously agreed that a traffic study for the project was unnecessary.
Currently, about 40 children participate in the program and are shuttled to school in the morning and to the activity center in the afternoon, according to LeBlanc.
“But we can take a few more, once the pandemic is over,” she said.
The city began operating the daycare program eight years ago when it took over the reins of an area YMCA. For 90 minutes in the morning and two and a half hours in the afternoon, students do homework, play games, perform skits, do crafts and do other activities.
The program originally took place at Wells Elementary School, but in 2020 it moved to the activity center once the pandemic took hold.