OAKLAND — The boat landing and beach on Messalonskee Lake in Oakland never looked so good.

What was once the site of a corn and bean cannery has been transformed over recent years to include a swimming area, a winter ice-fishing spot and snowmobile launch with parking, picnic tables, landscaped flowers and a lawn, and, as of Saturday, a new 30-foot dodecagon, a 12-sided gazebo made from Southern yellow pine.

Nearly 200 people were expected to gather Saturday evening for a cookout, music and an infusion of community spirit to thank the many volunteers who made it happen and to dedicate the gazebo, several years and about $42,000 in the making. Fundraising took care of most of the money for the gazebo, committee members said Saturday as tables were set up under a tent in preparation for the evening ceremonies.

Town Manager Gary Bowman said he joined Mike Willey, chairman of the town Facilities Committee, Gene Roy, of the Recreation Committee, community volunteer Ed Pearl and others to “see if we get this thing jump started” in 2014. By the fall of 2015, plans were well underway.

“The discussion about the gazebo here has been going on for a long time,” Willey said. “The money was raised with donations. We started a GoFundMe page. Ed Pearl was the primary fundraiser. He raised probably 60 percent of the total funds.”

The only town tax dollars involved in the construction of the gazebo paid for the labor it took to build it. Town employees were already on the payroll, so there was no added cost, Bowman said.

The town purchased an Amish kit to construct the gazebo.

Bowman said about 80 people donated to the project, including 27 who gave $500 each and local businesses that gave $2,500.

The largest donation, of $5,000, was made in remembrance of Cassidy Charette, a 17-year-old Messalonskee High School student dedicated to volunteering who was killed in a hayride accident in 2014.

“I think it gives the community a sense of pride,” Pearl said. “It gives them a place to come on a weekly basis for a music series beginning next summer. It gives me a lot of pride to be involved in this.”

Willey agreed, saying the gazebo and the park at the boat landing and the beach give the people of Oakland a sense of place and community.

“We wanted community involvement, which is the reason we did it with donations,” said Willey, who is leaving Oakland soon to join family members in Minnesota. “We wanted it to be built by everyone, but also built for everyone.”

He said there’s a place for swimming, and now a large gazebo to sit under after swimming. It’s also a place where schoolteachers can come with a class to the lake, and even weddings could be held there, Willey said.

“Before the boat landing, there wasn’t any public place on this lake that the town could even come and swim,” he said. “So now we have boating, we have swimming, we have other events. In general, what we’ve tried to do is make the town, with this facility, have a sense of place, a sense of community.”

Bowman took the idea a step further for the town of Oakland.

“It contributes to the quality of life,” he said. “We have a nice little community here and we’re trying to make it even better.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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