YARMOUTH - A new park is underway on the former Milton school site, bordered by Elm, Brunswick, and Huntington streets in Yarmouth.
The Doug Melanson Park is close to an acre in size, with winding paths, a wide variety of tree species, shrubs and benches. Three large play mounds in the centre provide climbing and rolling opportunities for visiting youngsters.
Park committee chair Jean Clulee says many people have an emotional connection to the site.
“It’s really amazing the comments we get,” she said.
Sue Amon taught at the school for 25 years or more.
“All my kids went to school here,” she said.
She and her husband Frank have been watering the new plantings (20 trees and 15 shrubs) three times a week since the end of May.
“It’s a two-hour job each time,” she said.
The family recently donated a bench in honour of their son, Christopher, who died 15 years ago.
Sue had heard the park was seeking contributions towards park elements and she thought the bench would be a nice tribute.
The family started a GoFundMe on April 24 and by April 26, the anniversary of Chris’s death, the goal was surpassed.
“Over 40 people gave. That’s the gift of love that he left, it sits there. It gives us a really nice feeling that he’s still part of the community,” Sue said.
Clulee says that not only are memorial benches and trees being donated, people who are alive and well are also being honoured with these park elements.
“It could be something your child or grandchild could watch grow,” she said.
Committee member David Sollows was a principal at the school and taught Grade 6. He’s excited about the many different types of trees that have been planted.
“There are some interesting trees. We’ve got a metasequoia there and there’s a gingko biloba, a katsura, paper bark and amur maples, a copper beech… I’m wanting to see it in about 50 years,” he laughed.
Nora Wigley, a landscape designer and former resident of Yarmouth, assisted with the design of the site.
The park committee estimates close to $60,000 must be raised to complete the park, which is a joint project with the Town of Yarmouth and the Milton Improvement Society.
Eventually, games tables, balance beams, interpretive signage and a labyrinth and public forum area will be added to the park.
How you can help
Donations are welcome for the Doug Melanson Park through the newly formed Community Assets Donation Program of the Town of Yarmouth.
More about Doug Melanson
The man for whom the new Doug Melanson Park is named worked nearly two decades as custodian for the former Milton school and was a popular sight at the school.
He was the custodian at Milton Elementary between 1969 and 1989.
“Everybody loved this man,” says park project co-ordinator Jean Clulee. “He seemed to know and love all the kids.”
Melanson lived across from the bowling lanes on Brunswick Street and this summer some of his family members, including his great-grandsons, planted a Japanese flowering cherry tree in the park, just like Melanson used to have in his yard.
Dave Sollows, a park committee volunteer, says Melanson left a “legendary legacy.”
“He would come and visit now and then. If anything was needed, he would find a way to make it happen,” said Sollows.
On cold snowy days, there would already be coffee on when the staff arrived and paths would be shovelled.
A broken pencil sharpener would be repaired without people having to barely mention it and the school was spotless.
“He treated the school as something that was a source of pride to him. He was an example to others,” said Sollows.
Doug Melanson died in 2009.