Focused Discussion #7 Choose Your Future: Capitalizing on the River and the Riverfront Gardiner H&S and Comprehensive Plan

The Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Heart & Soul Community Action Team hosted a focused discussion on June 20th to solicit ideas for what the community and City can do to capitalize on the Kennebec River and the riverfront. The discussion was held at Johnson Hall in downtown Gardiner. A group of about 30 people participated in the discussion. While many of the participants were people who have been active in the H&S process there were a number of people who were new to the process. The event opened with brief overviews of the purpose of the focused discussion and the H&S process including the draft Community Vision. Participants were then asked to share their ideas for what the City and community can do to better utilize the river and riverfront to make Gardiner a better community. People’s ideas and comments were recorded on a flip chart and are reported below:

June 20, 2013
  • Thin the trees along the river to improve the views of the river
  • Create a scenic overlook(s) along Route 24
  • Need to be aware of the limits on cutting and clearing under Shoreland Zoning
  • Advertise the quality of the water in the river – have some type of information system
  • Is there a way to get access to the river for swimming? (It was noted that the river is swimmable except following major storms)
  • Need to think about how to get trailer boaters to use the Gardiner boat launch – should advertise
  • Re-establish a boat excursion operation on the river (the Pink Lady used to operate)
  • The Bank of Maine is moving its staff across the street making the historic buildings on the river side of Water Street available for reuse – the bank is actively looking at reuse/redevelopment opportunities
    • Possibly residential condos on the 2nd and 3rd floors
    • Example of what happened in East Greenwich, CT
    • Should have flowers hanging from the buildings
    • Need for a distinctive draw – example of Water Fire in Providence, RI
  • Work to attract transient boaters on the river – Belfast is offering boats slips with power and water hookups for overnight stays
  • Need to reuse the train station – use it as a co-op market with stalls for local vendors
  • Provide more picnic tables at Waterfront Park – also need trash cans
  • Should provide benches along Water Street
  • Need a playground at Waterfront Park
  • Community should be trying out a wide range of activities at Waterfront Park to see what works/sticks
  • Provide tide charts/information at the boat launch
  • Explore the potential for crew and rowing on the river – possibility of hosting regattas or similar activities
  • The restrooms at Waterfront Park need to be cleaned up – should be painted and locks installed on the doors
  • Explore the possibility of kayak and boat rentals (also bike rentals) at or near the park
  • Extend the rail-trail to Waterfront Park and make the waterfront a focal point – a destination for people using the trail
  • Establish Route 24 as a bicycle route – it is a good place to ride, flat with good views of the river – should extend all the way to South Gardiner
  • Improve the aesthetics of Waterfront Park and the riverfront
    • Remove the old wooden welcome to Gardiner sign or replace it with a sign matching the new signs in Waterfront Park
    • Minimize the use of signs especially “no ___” signs and cluster the signs
    • Replace the lighting on the Randolph Bridge with low, pedestrian scale lighting
    • Improve the appearance of the backs of the Water Street buildings – this is what you see from the river
  • Focus on generating more use of Waterfront Park
    • Less focus on festivals and more on everyday use of the park
    • More opportunities for doing things – people watching
      • Volleyball court
      • Fire pit for bonfires
      • Pop-ups – food vendors and others
      • Tent for shelter and shade
      • Eating- gatherings – music
  • Improve connections to the riverfront and Downtown
    • Better connection between riverfront and historic business area
    • Extend the rail-trail to Waterfront Park
    • Complete the Merrymeeting Trail from Waterfront Park to Bath
    • Explore the possibility of a pedestrian bridge across the river
    • Develop stronger connections from the Downtown and waterfront up the hill – Jacob’s Ladder
  • Develop a new business anchor for the waterfront thru reuse of the Bailey’s building as a B&B (Note: Bank of Maine says they are looking at that option and the reuse of the building)
  • Create a riverfront promenade from Waterfront Park to South Gardiner – 3 mile corridor
  • Is music a good use of the waterfront?  YES  should be music on a regular schedule
  • Install bike racks in Waterfront Park
  • Should have a large display map in Waterfront Park that shows nearby places and connections
  • Promote the use of Waterfront Park for business meetings/lunches with local businesses
  • If there are more vendors in Waterfront Park, be careful where you put them – don’t take up parking spaces
  • Consider a winter Fire and Ice Festival on the river
  • Complete the re-creation of the pump house – the deck is being built – there will be informational signage about both natural features and historic aspects
  • Promote sturgeon – establish a “sturgeon blog” to share information and sitings
  • The MeDOT may have funding for a Route 24 scenic overlook
  • Consider installing kayak storage units at Waterfront Park
  • Provide some type of “permanent tent” at Waterfront Park
    • Provide a venue for rental for events
    • Need to address issue with flooding and floodplain restrictions
  • There are no gateways to Gardiner or gateways to Downtown
  • Need signs directing people from Waterfront Park to the Downtown
  • Install a “concrete Ping-Pong table” at Waterfront Park
  • Make the emphasis on family use of the waterfront