BELGRADE — When Dottie Matson cut the blue ribbon on the gazebo in the Belgrade Village Green on Saturday, it marked the end of one phase in the life of the community park and the start of the next.

For four years, her son and daughter-in-law, Lynn and Phyllis Matson, have been working to make a vision they had become real.

At the southern end of Belgrade Lakes Village sat a triangular one-acre parcel of land, bordered on two sides by Route 27 and West Road. It would be, they thought, the perfect location for a community park.

“This has been a long-awaited day for us, and I’m really glad it’s come,” Lynn Matson said just before his mother cut the ribbon.

Dozens of area residents turned out to join the town celebration. They gathered for free ice cream and balloons, to bid on desserts as part of a fundraiser for Neighbors Driving Neighbors and to stop by the Belgrade Lakes Association to visit or learn about the group.

Later would come the traditional beanhole bean supper, put on by the Belgrade Fire & Rescue Association at the Center for All Seasons, and the loon calling contest at Lakepoint Real Estate.

And they heard how the village green came to be.

The clock started ticking in earnest on May 2015 when Matson sat at his computer to bid on the foreclosed property through an online auction. When they won it, they also won the house on the property and the tenants in it.

Once the tenants were removed, they offered the house for sale to be moved, but there were no takers. Instead, they allowed the house to be burned in the spring of 2018 as part of a training exercise for fire departments in Belgrade and a couple other towns.

That’s when the work started on building the gazebo, and on the sitting wall that arcs around one side of the gazebo.

In March, Belgrade residents voted 354 to 122 at Town Meeting to accept the park; the monetary value of the gift has not been disclosed.

The greatest value of the gift to the community, Town Manager Anthony Wilson said last week, is that it creates a communal gathering spot for the community.

“We fully anticipate there will be opportunities to hear live and lively music there,” Wilson said. “There will be wedding vows exchanged there, families will be picnicking there, senior portraits will be snapped there, and any time there is cause for celebration in our community, I think that’s going to be a natural place for us to gather and celebrate whatever the moment is.”

Belgrade has several gathering spots, where people can meet and talk or have a cup of coffee, he said. But the Village Green is unique because there’s nothing else like it.

“It also hearkens back to a quintessential New England spot,” he said. “You have this very green space and smack dab in the middle of it is this classic white wooden gazebo. I think that will hold a lot of appeal to people. It’s just aesthetically pleasing and calm and comforting.”

Dottie Matson, 98, flanked by Belgrade Town Manager Anthony Wilson, left, and her son Lynn Matson and daughter-in-law Phyllis Matson, on Saturday cuts the ribbon on the gazebo at the Belgrade Village Green. Kennebec Journal photo by Jessica Lowell

On Saturday, Clarence Bennett and Marianne Gee took advantage of the modest shade offered by one of the newly planted trees and a newly installed bench to take in the sights and listen to the music.

Bennett, a retired teacher, and Gee, who ran the Village Peddler for 40 years, are longtime residents and retired, and they said they will come back to the park again.

“It’s a mixed a bag,” Bennett said. “I think most people are in favor of it. There are some naysayers.”

Decades ago, the property was part of the golf course of the storied Belgrade Hotel, a lakefront destination for vacationers in the first half of the 20th century. In 1956, fire broke out in the hotel, and driven by strong winds, destroyed the building.

Matson said luck also played a role. Fifteen minutes after the online auction ended, a microburst came across Long Pond, took down 13 trees on their property and knocked out power to the property for a week.

“If it had happened 15 minutes sooner,” Matson said, “we wouldn’t be here today.”












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