Dr. Harold Boudreau
Dr. Harold Boudreau doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t building something. He says that starting to build his own toys at the age of five was just the natural thing to do since his family didn’t have much. He found great joy in picking up an old, forgotten piece of wood and adding a bit of paint – restoring it into something playful and exciting.
Now a retired family dentist from Meteghan, Nova Scotia, Dr. Boudreau spends many of his days building for, and maintaining, a local community park for children in the area – a project he started nine years ago in 2008.
Dr. Boudreau went on to work in Annapolis Royal for one year after he completed his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) at Dalhousie University in 1973. He then moved to Digby where he opened his own dental clinic, quickly connecting with his patients and gaining interest and investing in local causes and groups that not only mattered to him, but his patients as well.
“I knew right away I wanted to reach out and get involved,” said Dr. Boudreau.
“I learned a lot about my patients and the things they cared about by simply just talking and listening to them. Their concerns quickly became my concerns.”
During this time, Dr. Boudreau was President of the Digby Board of Trade, board member at Saint Anne’s University, and minor hockey coach. After spending 31 years practicing in Digby, Dr. Boudreau decided to leave and open another practice – this time in his hometown of Meteghan. It was here that he heard from patients that there was no place for children to play and exercise within the Clare district.
“This was obviously a big concern for many of my patients,” said Dr. Boudreau. “There was a need for a park where families and children could play all year around, and I wanted to help.”
Bidding on behalf of a community
Putting his volunteer experience to work, Dr. Boudreau started to research possible places for a play area. He quickly discovered that institutions like the local high school or St. Anne’s University were too costly, making accessibility an issue for a lot of families in surrounding neighborhoods.
“Everyone should be able to enjoy it,” said Dr. Boudreau.
“It was really important that the playground was free to use. That way, every child would have an equal chance to access it, play, and engage in physical activity as well as strengthen their mental ability.”
During this time, an old school had been demolished in downtown Meteghan—leaving the local municipality to look for ideas on how to best utilize the space. It didn’t take Dr. Boudreau long before he submitted his proposal for a community park. A bid which he won, along with $3000 to get it started.
“I was able to combine that initial money with a major grant through health and recreation to start the project,” said Dr. Boudreau.
“I was very fortunate to have the help of many friends, community members and organizations such as Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Clare municipality and the local health board.”
Something for everyone
Wanting the whole community to benefit from the park, Dr. Boudreau decided to design the play area to consist of three different sections. One area is for the zero to four age group, another for those who are between the ages five and 12, and a skateboard park for teenagers. The skateboard park was proudly supported and funded by the Nova Scotia Dental Association (NSDA) in 2014 – awarding Dr. Boudreau and the Meteghan community a $5000.00 grant towards the project.
Dr. Boudreau says there are two types of parks being built today. On the one hand you have minimalistic and commercial parks, while others are based on more natural construction materials like stone, wood, rope, pea gravel, and fresh green grass. The latter, he gladly states, is the kind of park we’re striving for here in Meteghan.
“The first kind lacks imagination,” says Dr. Boudreau “And what’s the fun in that?”
“Parks should be colourful and inviting! They should encourage children to be adventurous and use the structures in fun and challenging ways.”
Marlene Comeau, a pharmacist from Meteghan, has known Dr. Boudreau for over 15 years. She and her family have regularly enjoyed the park since 2008, and have previously donated iron gates to the park as well as a baby change station. She says the park has benefited families in the community immensely by giving children a safe place to meet and play.
“Not only do the children love the diversity of the playground, but parents really appreciate that it’s built for more than one age group,” says Mrs. Comeau. “It’s not only great for after supper play dates but spacious enough and equipped with the proper facilities to host special events or activities like birthday parties.”
“The dedication Dr. Boudreau has shown towards this park and towards his community is commendable. He has worked so hard to organize, build and upkeep the park while asking for nothing in return. This community is going to continue to benefit from his generosity for years to come.”
A lasting impact
Dr. Boudreau says he’s found an enormous amount of satisfaction maintaining the park and watching it grow, even if it is a lot of work.
“It makes me so happy to be able to drive or walk by and see the park being used every day,” said Dr. Boudreau.
“Although it is tucked away here in our small town, the park is being used by more people than I ever imagined. Families, children and schools take trips from all over the district to play in the park.”
He credits his patients for opening up to him and sharing their concerns over the years, stating the park would never have happened if it wasn’t for them. He believes dentists have a lot to offer their communities, and can have an impact no matter how big or small.
“I encourage everyone to find their interest and go for it,” says Dr. Boudreau.
“My patients helped me realize that I wanted to get involved in my community very early in my career. I could see where my skills and interests could help all those years ago and the rewards since then have been plentiful.”