Saxl Park - A community Space

1981 - 1984

The grounds around the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center, originally used for farming, became unattractive and overgrown from lack of care. By the 1970's, improving the landscape became the concern of the neighborhood and BMHI staff. Joseph Saxl, DDPC Superintendent from 1974 to 1981, saw beyond the landscaping issues, to a recreational park for both patients and community. When Mr. Saxl died, the idea took hold to plan and build this park as a tribute to him. A committee was formed and plans were drawn up for a fish pond/skating rink, a ball field, a fitness trail which would include exercise stations for the handicapped and in the winter could be used for cross country skiing, an Avenue of Trees, each to be planted in memory of folks who had at some time been members of the DDPC family, memorial shrubs, and a Circle of Senses for the blind and handicapped, and long range plans for outdoor concert facilities.

The Park was begun with the support of Commissioner Concannon, Superintendent Oulton, staff of DDPC, Department of Transportation, Bangor Recreation Department and the Maine National Guard, as well as local citizens. In 1976, the fish pond was designed for geriatric patients and stocked by the Fish and Game Department. The first skating party was held March 1, 1978. Because of wide use by area children and the elderly, it became necessary to fence in the facility and merchants in the immediate area, interested friends, and the Citizen's Interest Group raised money to erect an eight foot chain fence. This ceremony was held in 1982.

On Arbor Day, May 1984, 17 rock maple trees were planted to begin the Memorial Avenue of Trees. Since then several more trees have been added and other dedicated trees spot the grounds. The Circle of Senses, a wheelchair high planter for herbal plants recognizable to the senses, was built by EMVTI students and dedicated in 1984. The local Lions Club provided the cassette players and Braille signs erected for the infirm and handicapped. The Bangor Garden Club designed and prepared the display of plants and maintains the Circle from early spring through fall.

Development of the Park exceeded expectations. During the winter months, the Park has been used extensively for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Three ball fields, two already in use and one near completion, are in daily use. The Church League, the City, and local contractors have made this possible, along with engineering and landscaping advice from the Department of Transportation.

It is important to note that this Park has been financed by indivi¬duals, groups and clubs, many of whom caught the vision Joe Saxl foresaw, and wanted to bring it to fruition. Thousands of volunteer hours, along with thousands of volunteer dollars in cash, in service, and in materials, have gone into Saxl Park, which exemplifies the fulfillment of an idea whose time had come.

DDPC is proud and salutes the Saxl Park Committee, which is continuing its work in bringing DDPC and the community which it serves closer together.

In a letter dated May 2, 1984, Commissioner Concannon officially authorized Superintendent Oulton to formally designate the grounds of BMHI as Saxl Park, to be named in memory of Joe Saxl who served as superintendent at DDPC.

1984 to present

The Saxl Park Committee continued to meet and still is active today. During this time work continued on the trail system throughout the Park. In September of 2000, the trail was officially named The Fred Boyce Trail, as Fred was one of the driving forces behind the creation of this Park. The Park and trail system are currently used today, not only by patients and staff of DDPC, but by our community neighbors as well. The Park is used all year long – for walking, jogging, bird watching, snowshoeing, high school sports, dog walking, and watching wildlife (fox, deer and even a moose).

A representative from John Bapst High School has been part of the Saxl Park Committee for years; and in the early 90’s an arrangement was made with John Bapst that has proven to be a win-win situation for the entire Bangor community and beyond. The school committed to a set financial investment for the athletic fields in exchange for first consideration when scheduling field events. The patients win because we have a first class recreation area on our campus; the school wins because they have fields at their use; and the community wins as well. The Park is used for soccer, high school and middle school cross-country meets, football practice, softball/baseball, and field hockey, as well as field day events. The students from United Technology Center built the two new dugouts in 2006. Schools presently using the Park are from Bangor, Dover-Foxcroft, Blue Hill, Lincoln, Newport, Howland, East Millinocket, Guilford, and Sullivan. The Park is also utilized by local softball and soccer teams, YMCA summer program, the Bangor East Side Little League, etc.

The Fred Boyce Trail is listed on the Maine Healthy Maine Walks website. In an effort to re-introduce Chestnut trees to Bangor, three Chestnut trees were planted on the Fred Boyce Trail in May of 2003.

The Park, with its wildlife, walking trails and athletic fields, continues to be an integral part of the Bangor community.

Contact DDPC at 941-4023 with any questions.