During the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic, the Raymond Wellness Coalition (RWC) wanted to create places and spaces that support social connections in a safe way. The team relied on their networks and connections to make things happen.

First, a winter project started to take shape, aimed to create an outdoor skating area to increase opportunities for physical activity. A small local pond was a perfect spot. The team pitched the idea to Municipal leaders and the recreation department, who in turn saw the benefits of a shared community space and quickly approved the idea to clear the snow off of the frozen pond.

The Plan

To increase hours on ice, lighting and ice maintenance were needed. The RWC was able to contribute funds for lights and tractor modifications, which included adding a shovel to the front of the tractor and a water tank to the back; all to create an innovative Zamboni. The Beyond Books Collection, equipped with skates, sticks and helmets, enabled families to borrow equipment from the library at no cost.

The Outcomes

After a year of use, the town committed to enhancing the space with additional seating, firepits, and encouraged community to use the outdoor area for special events. The town also ensured ongoing maintenance would be taken care of, so Raymond’s residents and visitors can continue to gather and connect, safely.

Another idea that was presented at this time, was to create a natural, play space made especially for children of all ages and abilities. Once again, the Raymond Wellness Coalition became a collaborative platform to move the action plan forward. The team partnered with Raymond Elementary School for the use of land and ensure proper maintenance. Staff at the local FCSS offered to store and maintain equipment. Donations of supplies and services from multiple community groups and organizations were offered.

Play area designs featured garden spaces used to educate children on how to grow food, while at the same time, increase their physical literacy by jumping, climbing, and moving their bodies. FCSS had a designer draw up a plan for the natural play structures which include boulders, logs, sand, and water. The space had an existing fence, ensuring that children stay safe. Unexpectedly, the fence become a community board to get messages out on upcoming events such as Orange Shirt Day! Sitting areas were also added to create an inclusive space for everyone to enjoy.

Without delay, families began to explore the space. Schools, FCSS programs, daycares, and families are utilizing the garden and play areas daily. Students are gaining knowledge and skills in gardening. One user even noted that they didn’t know what a goji berry was or what it tasted like until they tried it directly from the garden harvest!

Collaboration is key to community projects. Everyone involved can offer something no matter how small. Various supports, services and supplies are needed, from volunteer hours to refurbished tractors, to bring it all together.