Improvements eyed for Shorey Park

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The Community Development Committee faces two rather large hurdles in its goal of making improvements to Shorey Park.

The first is money: in a tight economy, plantings don’t quite seem all that necessary. The second is state shoreland regulations: nary a blade of grass can be disturbed in the small and peaceful downtown park overlooking Highland Lake without first getting approval from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Still, the committee is hopeful, and on Tuesday members asked selectmen to consider adding something to this year’s budget to help get the project off the ground. According to Chairman Mike Tarantino, the committee would like to see up to $30,000 earmarked this year for the first phase of the work, and envisions the work being done over four years, with a total budget of $80,000 to $100,000.

There may be opportunities for grant money to be found for some aspects of the project, according to a proposal drawn up for the committee by Bridgton landscape designer Lucia Terry, with help from Colin Holme of the Lakes Environmental Association.

The proposal, in its first phase, calls for the removal of invasive plants, such as purple loosestrife, barberry and honeysuckle that have taken hold since the park was created. Lower-growing native plants would be installed in their place to enable better views of the water. Efforts would be made to open up the so-called “grassy glade” at the south end of the park and create more connectivity to the sidewalk on Main Street.

The idea would be to make the park “a more welcoming place for people to move through the town,” according to member Dee Miller, who also serves on the Planning Board and spoke about the plan at their last meeting. The park is located just west of the center of downtown as Main Street curves up Main Hill at the corner of Highland Road. It fronts on both Main Street and Highland Road, overlooking the town beach on Highland Lake. Miller pointed out that Main Hill has seen new investment potential with the restoration of the William Perry House.

The proposal in successive phases calls for replacement of all the old blacktop paths with either a permeable paver or stamped concrete, and removal of most of the flowering crabapple trees, which Terry said are in decline. “Several more native shade trees could be planted to take the place of the large trees as they start to decline,” she said. The trees all need pruning, at the least, she said.

The walkway would be reconfigured and widened, “using either a paver that the grass grows through and gets mowed right across, or a stamped concrete,” said Terry. The existing granite pile would be removed and perhaps reused as new granite benches. Historic research would be done on the scenic footbridge that crosses over Stevens Brook inside the park, with an eye to its eventual replacement.

“Shorey Park is a treasure,” states Terry in her proposal. “We are so fortunate that the generosity of the Shorey family and the thoughtfulness of their vision, combined with the lovely design form that graces our town beyond any public space we have. Careful stewardship will allow the park to continue to be the quiet, peaceful place it is as it overlooks the lake and the mountains, while connecting the streets of downtown to the lakeside in all seasons.”

In order to do any of the work, the town-owned park land must first be rezoned. The land is currently in both the Stream Protection District, which has a 75-foot setback, and the Shoreland Zone, which has a 250-foot setback. When the town created its General Development District along Stevens Brook in the downtown, it hoped to include Shorey Park, but the DEP denied that part of the application, ruling that the town had not submitted justification for the need to have the park rezoned.

Terry’s proposal, the committee hopes, would justify the need, and the planning board voted at their last meeting to submit the plan to the DEP along with a map for an initial review. Once the DEP has reviewed the plan, it is hoped that the changes can be brought to voters at the June town meeting. The DEP will issue a final ruling after the local vote has taken place.

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