ROME — Nicholas Alexander had a huge smile on his face when he wheeled up to cut a yellow ribbon Tuesday afternoon at the entrance of a playground named for him at Pine Tree Camp.

When the ribbon dropped to the ground after a couple of snips, a cheer rose from the 100 or so campers, parents and counselors who’d gathered for the event.

The crowd was there to celebrate the opening of Nicholas’ Playground, a barrier-free play area for children with disabilities. Almost immediately, campers were swinging and jumping around on the new playground.

Alexander, 14, who uses a wheelchair, led the charge to build a playground that he and other children could enjoy.

“It just fulfills my dream,” Alexander said after taking a tour of the playground Tuesday.

Even though the ceremony was in his honor and the playground bears his name, Alexander downplayed his role in its creation. The playground was the product of a lot of hard work on the part of a lot of people, the teen said, adding that although he came up with the idea, he was always thinking about other Pine Tree campers.

“I didn’t think of myself,” he said. “I thought of other people and how they would want to use the playground.”

Pine Tree Camp is a summer camp on North Pond for Maine adults and children who have disabilities. It is equipped to give campers the full summer camp experience with overnight camping trips, kayaking, swimming, hiking and sports. Every year, about 650 campers stay at Pine Tree Camp.

The new playground has all the familiar trappings — swings, a full-size pirate ship-themed play set, a playhouse, a glider and a gazebo set among mature birch, pine and hemlock trees.

A quick glance reveals some important differences from a conventional playground, though. One of the swing sets is made of heavy coated steel and has two suspended platforms, each sized to fit a wheelchair. All the other structures and play equipment also are accessible.

Tuesday was the culmination of a project Alexander had launched two years ago after the camp removed its playground to make way for a wellness center, part of a multimillion-dollar building and renovation project at the camp.

That the camp was left without a playground didn’t sit well with the energetic Alexander, so he took it up with the board of directors of the Pine Tree Society, the Maine nonprofit organization that runs the camp.

“When he has an idea, he works hard to make it a reality,” said Noel Sullivan, the group’s president.

It didn’t take much convincing for the board to see the need for the playground, said Paul Jacques, a Waterville resident and board chairman.

Alexander’s drive and vision kept the project on track. The teen helped organize fundraising and helped with planning. A small army of volunteers helped design, build and install the structures.

It took a little more than two years to complete the project — a long time to wait for children looking forward to getting out there to play.

Turning Alexander’s vision into a reality, however, was bound to take time. For example, each of the structures had to be custom designed and built. Volunteer power had to be leveraged to transform a rocky, overgrown patch of woods into a manicured playground. The end result was well worth the wait and will stand for generations of campers, Jacques said.

“It was such a good idea that we wanted to take the time to do it right,” Jacques said in remarks to the crowd before the ribbon was cut.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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