AUGUSTA — Cunningham Park is no longer the pocket park that was dedicated in 1983.

Named after John “Jack” Cunningham, a city councilor who worked to create the green space for the many children in the neighborhood, the park has been expanded twice since then and recently renovated.

It was rededicated under overcast skies Sunday afternoon as two of his great-granddaughters climbed the brightly painted purple and teal playground equipment side by side with Melanie Baillargeon’s two sons.

“It’s convenient to wander to. It’s a place I grew up,” Baillargeon said. She purchased her parents’ home on Elm Street near Cunningham’s house.

Pam Morin recalled walking from her parents’ Spring Street home to bring daughter Michaela to the park. “It was wonderful to have it here,” Morin said.

The Cunningham family too admired the updated park which was recently enlarged when the city razed an abandoned adjacent house and annexed the property to the park.

“They did a nice job,” said one of Cunningham’s daughters, Linda Jones, of Manchester and of Florida. “It looks really good.”

About 40 people, many members of Cunningham’s family, members of the West Side Neighbors group that helped create the park and current neighbors gathered for the ceremony around a large rock that held the name plaque.

Another daughter, Mary Cunningham, of Brunswick, recalled living near Albison’s Market which preceded the park at Bridge and North streets. Her father, Jack Cunningham, had been a neighbor of Albison’s and started his own place, Jack’s Cash Market, at Sewall and Capital streets, now the site of the state parking garage, she said.

“My father loved this neighborhood and loved the city,” Mary Cunningham said. “It’s very nice this is happening. This would make him even prouder if he was here today.”

Cunningham, who retired as a postal clerk and later served as doorman in the Maine House of Representatives, lived on Elm Street and served as Ward 3 city councilor from 1971 to 1982. He died in 1997.

The rededication ceremony was organized by Cheryl Clukey, a member of the West Side Neighbors whose home is across the street from the park and who has a window that overlooks it. “I’ve always been passionate about this park for kids,” said Clukey, describing some of her daughters’ experiences there.

She said the park was the result of neighbors’ concerns that the section of the city was rundown and neglected and had abandoned buildings on the site.

“The neighborhood worked tirelessly on this project,” she said. Now, 33 years later, she said it’s available for a new generation of children. She helped advocate for the installation of a tall, mushroom-like water feature that rains water down. It replaced sprinklers that spouted water from the circumference of a large round area.

City Councilor Linda Conti told those gathered that she purchased her home in 1993 because of the proximity of Cunningham Park’s green space.

“It’s become prettier and bigger ever since I moved into this neighborhood,” she said.

Mayor David Rollins also talked of one issue affecting the neighborhood today: a proposal to create a historic preservation district on the west side of the city that would touch the park.

Rollins said it appears some people were unaware of the proposal so a fifth neighborhood forum is tentatively set for Tuesday at Buker Center.

“It’s your neighborhood,” he said. “When the day is done, we want to provide for you what you want. Come listen and learn.”

Valerie Morin, a resident opposed to the proposal, was at the park rededication as well, collecting signatures on a petition against the designation. She said so far she knew of 26 people opposed to it.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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