After near miss, city reapplies for rec area funds

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A drone image depicts the Warren Recreation Area lying between Main Street and the Presumpscot River. The city has applied for a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to make the area more accessible and usable by a wider array of residents.

WESTBROOK — The city is again trying to secure a grant to upgrade the Cornelia Warren Recreation Area.

It submitted a grant application Nov. 17 to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the second year in a row. In 2016 eight Maine communities were awarded grants, with Westbrook placing ninth among those considered. 

This year only two or three projects will be chosen in Maine, according to Phil Spiller, who completed the application for the city. Spiller, the vice president of the board of Discover Downtown Westbrook, has been a longtime volunteer for the city and spent an estimated 300 hours on the grant application last year. This year he said put in 30-40 hours because he can reuse most of the materials.

If chosen for the $200,000 grant, with a $200,000 match, Westbrook would complete a substantial makeover of the recreation area, which includes a public pool, ball fields and part of the city’s Riverwalk overlooking the Presumpscot River. Items shown on the concept design include improved public and handicapped access and parking, improved visual and physical access to the river with Riverwalk upgrades, a walking history trail, a natural playground and splash-pad feature, and lighting and electrical upgrades.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the city and its residents would benefit greatly from the improvements. 

“If successful, this will be a much needed rehabilitation of the the Cornelia Warren Recreation Area,” he said.

Last year, up to $300,000, with a 100 percent match, was available through the grant. The city had applied for the full grant, but having less available this year won’t change the project in any way. When the grant application was denied last year, the city went forward with some of the work on its own and spent $200,000 on reconstructing Stevens Avenue, which connects with the recreation area.

The same organizations that pledged money toward the match last year are doing so again this year, Bryant said. The Cornelia Warren Foundation will donate $100,000, Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corporation will donate $35,000, and the Westbrook Recreation and Conservation Commission will donate $15,000. The city is hoping to secure the other $50,000 from a Community Block Development Grant. 

According to Spiller, the last time a Land and Water Conservation grant was used in Westbrook was during the 1980s and wasn’t applied for again until last year. Until the 2016 basketball court rehab, the recreation area hadn’t received significant upgrades since the 1980s. The $200,000 project, which was funded by donors, was organized in memory of Trey Arsenault, a Westbrook athlete who was killed in 2015.

The City Council endorsed its approval of Spiller’s request to reapply for the grant Nov. 6. Bryant said the city appreciates the work Spiller has put in. 

“On a volunteer basis Phil is doing a tremendous amount of work,” he said. “He’s been working tirelessly. He’s been a significant driving force behind this.”

Spiller said he feels confident that Westbrook will receive the grant this year and expects to find out by the end of the year. If the city receives the grant, work would begin on the recreation area next year.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

A drone image depicts the Warren Recreation Area lying between Main Street and the Presumpscot River. The city has applied for a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to make the area more accessible and usable by a wider array of residents.

A concept plan shows potential upgrades to the Cornelia Warren Recreational Area, including a natural playground, a splash pad and revamped paths, trails and parking.

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