2012-03-23 / Front Page

Officials to look at park

By Kristy Wagner Staff Writer

John Wilkinson said he feels the city of South Portland has failed his father’s legacy.

Wilkinson approached the city council on Monday to challenge comments that were made at a workshop by those who feel it might not be worth it to invest money in the park named after his father, John Wilkinson.

After reading an article in a local newspaper about Wilkinson Park, a recreational building at the end of New York Avenue, receiving $50,000 in the capital improvement plan.

Wilkinson said he did not agree with what was said at the March 12 workshop.

“My dad and my grandfather, the one thing they always said they wanted to happen was for (Wilkinson Park) to always be for the kids,” Wilkinson said.

In his allotted five minutes for public comment, Wilkinson told the council how his father owned the property and gave it to the city of South Portland in 1994 when he could no longer afford to pay taxes on the property.

“(The city) said they would be willing to take it over as long as grounds and building were in working shape,” Wilkinson said.

He said his father asked a few things of the city if it took the park over, but nothing was done about it for a while. Wilkinson said the city has neglected the park’s upkeep since his father died.

At one point, Wilkinson said, he noticed that the park’s baseball diamond, building, and playground didn’t look well taken care of. He said approached Dana Anderson, former director of public works.

“I said, ‘Dana this isn’t how it is supposed to be,’” Wilkinson said. “Dana was very good and worked with me and worked with my dad and with others who were involved.”

Wilkinson was cut short when his time for public comment ran out.

Don Cook of South Portland spoke in support of Wilkinson and said the city neglected the park against the wishes of Wilkinson’s father.

“The agreement was this: Mr.Wilkinson would give (the building) to the city for nothing if you maintained it. You have not maintained it, you haven’t taken care of the building,” Cook said.

Councilors Tom Blake and Alan Livingston commented on the issue of the Wilkinson Park building after City Manager Jim Gailey presented the capital improvement plan to the public at Monday’s meeting.

“We have probably not done the best job taking care of the building and I have requested that the city take a workshop tour of that building,” Blake said. “The Wilkinson building has gone off the radar and I don’t think that’s what the Wilkinsons wanted.”

Livingston shared Blake’s sentiment on the matter.

“It’s one of our few assets on the west side of town. We do have to do something about it and this is a start.”

Staff Writer Kristy Wagner can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 233.

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