Polishing a gem: Young Professionals present plan to upgrade Highland Lake Beach area

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

During the summer, Justin McIver and his wife like to buy a couple of lobster rolls from Maine Lobster Express on Main Hill, walk down to the beach and enjoy one of the town’s gems — Highland Lake.

While the natural beauty is obvious, McIver and Bridgton’s Young Professionals believe the beachfront and surrounding area holds greater potential.

“This is an underutilized asset and one of our most important that could be so much more,” McIver told Bridgton selectmen Tuesday night.

McIver asked selectmen how many towns have a beautiful lake such a short distance from its downtown? Not many, he noted, which is why Bridgton should capitalize on an opportunity to polish up this gem as an attraction spot for residents and visitors alike.

Using an overhead projector, McIver posted images of the current site, which included a highly-weathered picnic table. He pointed out that “unsafe walking conditions” exist and there is no “connectivity” from the beach to Shorey Park.

How can the beach be improved?

The Young Professionals have a “vision.” McIver, who is owner of Main Echo Homes and is vice president of the group, met with a surveyor and landscape architect to put various ideas onto paper.

The parking area could be expanded (increasing parking space from about 20 to 49, including designated spots for boat trailers), while improvements in lighting, signage and landscaping would be made. The plan would also call for the addition of new sidewalks and speed bumps near the beach area to slow traffic. Other additions could include a snack shack (which the town could lease) and bicycle racks.

McIver developed quotes for the project, which reached about $192,000. Grant money could be sought but, before a request can be made, town approval would be required, McIver said. The town might also dip into local money, if officials find the project worthy.

When asked if the Young Professionals had a time frame regarding the project, McIver simply responded, “as soon as possible.”

“We’d like to piggy back this project to what’s been done on Depot Street,” McIver said. “There is so much potential there (at Highland Lake).”

Board Chairman Greg Watkins suggested that officials hold a workshop sometime at the start of the new year with the Young Professionals, as well as town staff.

Trees and turf dilemma

A few years have passed since Bridgton gave Depot Street a serious overhaul, but a shortcoming remains — do two trees need to be replaced and what does the town do about poor grass growth?

Long story short, Milone & MacBroom senior landscape architect Regina Leonard reported that the Depot Street trees were inspected this past October, and found that the two trees which the town had questioned to be replaced showed “new growth” and “no outward signs of stress.” The report notes that the corrective action dates back to July 2016, and the warranty period has since expired.

“Since the trees appear to be in good health, we recommend that they remain. The town should prune and fertilize the trees this fall, and as a general rule, the town should protect the trees from foot traffic to reduce compaction of the root zone and water the trees regularly through the growing season and as the trees approach dormancy in the fall,” the report states.

A major problem the town has is water availability. There is no sprinkler system there. So, watering the trees and grass is left up to Mother Nature at the moment, which at times may not be sufficient.

Milone & MacBroom noted “further decline” was seen in the grass since the fall of 2016 due to “excessive compaction” and a high percentage of weed species.

“It is our professional opinion that the activities taking place on the lawn have significantly compromised its health and vigor,” the report said.

Selectmen felt the only way to give the grass sufficient time to mature and take root was to keep foot traffic off, which meant relocation of the Farmers Market. Voters, however, gave the Market the green light to continue activity there.

“While our earlier recommendations for maintenance and restoration would be helpful, we are not convinced they would be sufficient to achieve the quality of turf the town seeks. In order to maintain a healthy lawn, the town will need to limit activities to the paved areas or expand the sidewalk to accommodate them,” the report adds.

Selectman Bob McHatton reached out to Doug Albert Jr., who operates a turf farm in Fryeburg, as to possible options the town might consider. Selectmen agreed to ask Albert to look over the existing “greens” on Depot Street and offer his thoughts.

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