Focused Discussion #4 Choose Your Future: Revitalizing the Cobbossee Corridor Gardiner H&S and Comprehensive Plan

The Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Heart & Soul Community Action Team hosted a focused discussion on May 16th to solicit ideas for what the community and City can do to encourage the revitalization of the corridor along the Cobbossee Stream including reuse and redevelopment of the area. The discussion was held at the Gardiner Middle School and was attended by approximately 40 people, some of whom have not been previously active in the H&S process. The event opened with brief overviews of the purpose of the focused discussion and the H&S process including the draft Community Vision. This was followed by a presentation by Brian Kent about the Cobbossee Corridor Master Plan that was developed and adopted by the City a few years ago. This plan served as the basis for some of the later discussion about the corridor. The presentation also noted that the City is able to receive funding from the Maine Department of Transportation for trail development if the City puts up its matching local share (estimated to be around $200,000) and that the City had just received a “Brownfields” grant to investigate possible contamination. Participants were then asked to share their ideas for what the City and community can do bring about the revitalization of the corridor and the implementation of the adopted corridor plan. People’s ideas and comments were recorded on a flip chart and are reported below:

May 16, 2020
  • The City needs to be clear on the status of the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) licensing status for the dam
  • The priority should be on developing housing in the corridor rather than on the trail
  • Supports development of the trail
  • The area should be a mix with trails, residential uses , and commercial development
  • Make the trail the “backbone” that links the various schools – LAR Elementary, Middle School, and High School
  • Concerned about maintenance of a trail – who does it?
  • Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) has the stewardship responsibility
  • Use of the trail helps maintain the existing nature trail along the stream
  • Schools
  • Wants to be able to walk on the trail to Downtown from the neighborhood
  • Possible area for the development of community gardens
  • Consider doing “container gardens” to avoid issues with possible contamination of the soil
  • The dilapidated buildings should be torn down
  • Keep the historic aspects of the corridor and identify them with signage
  • The waterhouse has historic importance
  • Standard Distributors may be an historic building
  • There is a problem with Japanese knotweed along the stream – it should be removed – also garlic weed
  • What welcoming signs?  Make this an attractive gateway entry to the City
  • Start with a small trail and parking at New Mills
  • Should be used as a dog park and a garden
  • Zoning was an issue
  • Need a game plan – what is the impetus for property owners to get involved
  • Little park (clean) work) : Karen volunteered
  • The issue is the “quality of life” – provide amenities – must be integrated
  • Problems with contamination have delayed development – build trails while the brownfields study is being done e.g. park at New Mills at the Water District
  • Mow and maintain the small park area (buy a tractor!)
  • Need steady investment and volunteers to maintain the area
  • The sewer easement is a trail – need a mowing brigade
  • How do you convince private owners to develop?
  • Mayor – the budget is tight and there is no money available from the City in the short term
  • What if the brownfields study finds contamination? What is Plan B?
  • The natural gas line will be coming across the Randolph bridge to the school very soon – this is a game changer!
  • The gas line will generate property taxes for the City
  • Look at the single-family homes near the area discussed for possible multifamily housing
  • People miss the swimming hole (came up in the interviews) – people still use it now; families picnic there
  • Concern that natural gas is associated with fracking
  • Need to implement mixed-use
  • Gardiner needs a draw – whitewater kayaking could be that draw. Possibility of taking out one dam – the railroad trestle is a key attraction
  • Use/develop the mill as an indoor sports venue
  • I want to retire on the stream and be able to walk to downtown
  • Use architecture students from UMA to develop a vision with spectacular renderings of how the buildings and area could be redeveloped
  • Gardiner has a unique site here
  • There is the opportunity to leverage that position
  • What happened to swimming at the Sportsman’s Club?
  • Issue with milfoil in the stream – maybe there could be a study of it
  • Is there local match for the MeDOT trail funds?  Are there other ways to get private funds?  Start a City fund – but a lot of work
  • The Cobbossee Corridor Trail needs to be integrated with the Kennebec River Rail Trail