CAMDEN — Updated draft concepts for paths and sidewalks along Megunticook River, as well as proposed redesigns of the Camden Public Landing, were delivered to interested residents, town officials and business owners Sept. 17 at the fourth community forum dedicated to potential major infrastructure projects. The forum was convened of six by consultants TY Lin International, of Falmouth, the lead firm producing for Camden design renditions of a revamped public landing and a riverwalk from the Camden Public Landing to Millville, up to the Seabright Dam and Shirttail Point.
Driving the design for the Public Landing were its general purposes: To continue its use as a working waterfront, that it be welcoming to visitors, recognize its importance to Camden’s downtown economy, and acknowledge its seasonal use.
“I was pleased to see not only 82 people in attendance but the clear diversity of residents, business owners, property owners, elected officials, and many others,” said Camden’s Development Director Brian Hodges, after the meeting. “The town worked closely with the consultants to provide designs that reflected the overall interests of the community. Even though some individual elements presented may not have been liked by every individual, we stressed the importance of looking at the designs more broadly and understanding that standalone components do not necessarily affect the bigger goal. Given the more positive tone, it seems we accomplished that.”
According to Hodges, the consultants will be delivering final designs for both projects by early October, and will be made available for public review. Then, Hodges will take the reports to the Camden Select Board. At that point, it will be up to the town to determine what happens next with the concepts, and any forward momentum will depend on the Select Board’s acceptance of them. Hodges encourages citizens to sign up for the Camden newsletter, a town-produced update, at the town’s website.
Hodges produced a short history of the Public Landing: In 1935, a fire burned buildings and a coal yard at what is now the landing. Rockport summer resident Mary Louise Bok talked with the Olmsted brothers and an attempt was made to use federal money in revamping the property. Bok agreed to assist with rebuilding the wharves, cleaning up the fire debris, and landscaping the area. A campaign was held for the town to purchase the property. If it did, Bok would help plant trees. In 1952, Camden Garden Club minutes make reference to a center turf area there. Then Town Manager Allen Torry communicated in 1953 about that green space cutting the number of parking spaces and they replied that the landing design was to support a combination of park and parking.
“We see that the idea of the Public Landing being something more than parking is not new,” wrote Hodges, in a memo. “In fact, some of the people we closely identify with as Camden had a vision of the Public Landing being a mix of park and parking.”
Designer Sarah Witte, of TY Lin, presented several Public Landing redesigns incorporating variations from a basic attempt to incorporate more green space there and refine existing space so that it is more useful. Some of the features include creating a small park at the north edge of what is parking lot now, rebuilding the chamber building and add public bathrooms there, and constructing a 12-foot-wide wooden boardwalk alongside the water.
She referred to the small picnic area at the north end as “a fine place to visit, this corner.”
Other features of the various designs include converting 10 parking spaces to a green space, with sail-like canopies that provide shade for programs and use on a seasonal basis. Features also include a fenced-in dog yard, a stub pier for commercial fishermen, with a hoist, and underground utilities.
She also produced a design for a footbridge (see slide at right) across the waterfall, a more controversial feature of a harbor redesign that has been proposed. Witte said that whether or not the bridge was actually implemented would not affect the other design elements recommended for the Public Landing.
Funding for the redesigns, if pushed foward, could derive from pay and display parking tickets, small harbor and boat infrastructure grants, she said.
“Would this be ready in time for next season,” asked one citizen.
“No, I wish,” said Witte. “There are some big decisions to make and funding to be sought.”
The two-mile Riverwalk, which would extend along the Megunticook River (in most areas) from Shirttail Point on Route 105 down to the harbor. The design as presented incorporates town-owned land; e.g., the Tannery property frontage on Megunticook River, as well as land owned by the School Administrative District 28 behind Camden-Rockport Middle School.
Witte said she worked on the Portland Trails — walking and biking trails that run alongside Portland’s harborfront, for 20 years. These projects, she cautioned, take years to get to fruition.
She said the path materials could consist of wood fiber spread over a gravel base, good for walking and bike riding.
“Both projects can be on parallel tracks,” said Witte.
The design portion of the two separate yet correlating projects was approved March 5 by the Camden Select Board after learning the town secured two state grants: a $15,000 grant (with a required $5,000 matching contribution from the town) to help plan a design for a path alongside the Megunticook River from Shirttail Point to the harbor and another $15,000 grant (and $5,000 local matching contribution) to revision the Town Landing, with tie-ins to the Riverwalk.
TY Lin then subcontracted a team of landscape architects, engineers and planners to help. They included Terrance DeWan and Associates, of Yarmouth, landscape architects and planners; Baker Design Consultants, of Yarmouth, engineering consultants; Penobscot Environmental, environmental consultants, of Camden; Northeast Civil Solutions, of Scarborough, engineers and land planners; and Planning Decisions, of Portland.
The first community meeting, which focused primarily on the Riverwalk project, was held at the Camden Rockport Middle School on March 18. The subsequent forum held April 1 had 120 people in attendance and the June 24 meeting drew a similar crowd. The concepts will include mapping, 3D models and schematics, a preliminary estimate of the project cost, a cost-benefit analysis, and a step-by-step implementation plan, including where to get funding for the project. It will also incorporate public input.
A section of the town's website has been dedicated to the project and includes minutes of previous forums. For more information, visit the Camden Riverwalk and Public Landing project page.
Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at email@example.com; 706-6657.