YARMOUTH, N.S. – Doug Melanson had a big heart and a big smile that drew people to him – so says a new website that has been launched as efforts officially move forward with the construction of a park in the Milton area that will bear Melanson’s name and memory.
For those who knew him, however, they don't need a website to be reminded about Melanson’s great qualities. Melanson was the custodian at Milton Elementary between 1969 and 1989. To say he was beloved is stating the obvious.
“His favourite time of day . . . was the early morning arrival of students. He knew them by name, knew which ones were shy and needed a welcoming smile, and which ones needed a reminder about picking up under desks at the end of the day,” reads the newly launched website www.dougmelansonpark.com. “He was gentle and kind and served as a sort of grandfather figure to all…He loved Milton Elementary. He was loved at Milton Elementary.”
And so it is fitting that on the site where old Milton schools once stood that a park will be developed called the Doug Melanson Park. Previously, a playground here had also been named in his memory.
This new park project is one that has been talked about and pursued for years, but is now finally coming together. It is a joint project between the town of Yarmouth and the Milton Improvement Society. The town is contributing $50,000 towards the project. It has approved a tender in the amount of $48,799.76 plus HST to K. Anthony Landscaping. The town says the first part of work getting underway now will include grading, creating pathways, installing entrance pavers and some site drainage. Planting will begin in the spring.
A Doug Melanson Park Committee and the Milton Improvement Society will raise another $50,000 towards the park. The launch of the website launches this fundraising effort.
“We don’t want to forget about the people that went before us. Going back to the late 2000s there was a group that worked very hard on this project,” says Jean Clulee – a Milton resident who is part of this park project initiative – in talking about how dreams for a park at this location have existed for some time.
Now things are moving towards reality.
Bordering Brunswick, Huntington and Elm streets, the concept for the park is for it to be an environmentally progressive park for people of all ages. There will be a grassy oval mound for children to play on. There will be seating in the park. The park will feature wide walkways that people can stroll through that will also accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. Trees, shrubbery and ground cover will be a large component of the park, as the intention is to create a space for public enjoyment and leisure that also requires minimum maintenance upkeep.
The park will encompass half of the property site. The other half has seen residential properties built on it.
The committee and society is excited to see this park project move forward, believing it will be a great asset to this part of town. A pile of dirt at the site has even become an iconic symbol of the project and of things to come.
There were two former Milton schools that stood on this property. The first dated back to 1864. The last saw students attending it until a decision was made to close Milton and Hebron schools and replace them with Meadowfields Community School.
Still, the memories linger, evident by a Milton Elementary School Facebook group where people share stories and memories of the schools.
Clulee says they hope to tap into the ongoing community feelings and love for the schools in their fundraiser efforts as construction of the park moves forward.
“People have great, fond memories,” she says.
Among those with fond memories is former Milton Elementary School principal David Sollows. He’s pleased to see a park being constructed here.
“There are so many people who would have attended school at that site who would have memories of that location and seeing it developed as a place for beauty and recreation is a very appropriate use of the property,” he says, noting it will be a place for people of all ages, from children to seniors.
Sollows wasn’t working at the school when Doug Melanson – for whom the park is being named after – was. But he has special memories of the school.
“There was something very special about Milton, it was a small school but had such an engaged community,” he says. “Facility wise, it was not an elaborate school, it was very basic. But what it lacked in facilities the staff, the parents, the home and school association, they more than made up for with their commitment to providing opportunities and programming to those kids.”
Sollows recalls when the school needed a resource room and the school staff gave up their staff room so that there would be added space to work with children.
“They weren’t forced to or even asked to, it was an initiative of the staff,” he says. “It was that kind of a place. It was a fabulous place to work and go to school for kids”
It is hoped that in addition to being a community treasure for the future, that the park will be seen as a fitting legacy to those who studied here, taught here, played here and worked here – in a building that had a multi-purpose room instead of a gym, and wasn’t big on size, but was big in other ways.
“Chances are your memories do not focus on its deficiencies, but instead on the feeling of warmth and feeling of family,” the park project’s website reads.
If you would like to support the fundraising effort underway visit the website www.dougmelansonpark.com.
Through the newly formed Community Assets Donation Program, the town of Yarmouth will issue tax receipts for any donation $25 or more.