BATH — Renovation of the Zorach fountain, a fixture of Library Park since 1962, is expected to wrap up late next spring.
The project improve the pond’s water quality and drainage, and access to its sculptural fountain.
Mark Jorgensen, a landscape designer who, with landscape architect Bruce John Riddell, drew up the project, is working with contractors to install frost walls, resurface the base, and install in edgings with plantings and boulders.
The work is expected to be a major improvement over the man-made pond that sits near the intersection of Washington and Summer streets.
“Over time, everything kind of slopes down; we were losing this whole area (to erosion),” city Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said Oct. 7.
“It was wet until August,” added Betsy Harrington, a member of the Friends of the Zorach Fountain board of directors.
“(We’re) digging it out and creating that solid wall, and we’ll catch all the drainage outside of it,” Balboni noted, describing a drainage system that will run to the pond from the Library Park gazebo.
“It’s not just about improving the pond; it’s about improving the entire park,” Harrington said.
The Friends have been raising funds for the $427,000 project since 2013. They have brought in more than $200,000 from foundations, individuals and businesses, and the city is contributing the balance from tax increment financing funds, according to Balboni.
Those wishing to contribute can contact Friends of the Zorach Fountain, Box 846, Bath, ME, 04530; log onto zorachfountain.org, or contact Balboni at 443-8360.
The city’s Public Works and Parks departments began the project by draining the pond, installing a temporary road to access the work zone, completing site work for footings around the pond and the frost wall, and digging up and removing base materials.
Jorgensen is now continuing with aesthetic and structural work, according to a recent Friends press release.
Weather permitting, work will continue through the winter, with drainage improvements installed when temperatures rise. The project will wrap up late next spring with the bridge being replaced, the lawn restored and additional plantings.
The Friends, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012, will hold another community celebration when the work is completed.
Created by William Zorach and dubbed “Spirit of the Sea,” the fountain was installed and dedicated to the city in August 1962.
Zorach, born in 1887 in Lithuania, was later recognized as the dean of American sculpture in New York for reintroducing the method of carving directly in stone. In 1923 he and his wife purchased property in Georgetown.
According to zorachfountain.org, the Bath Garden Club invited Zorach to design and sculpt the City Park fountain in February 1959. He offered to donate his work, as long as the club assumed the expense of casting in bronze, the plumbing, and the granite pedestal and base.
The club began fundraising that May, and by April 1962 it had reached its $15,000 goal, allowing preparatory work to begin in the park.
The late Margie Bliss and her husband Arthur began the effort to restore the sculpture and started the Friends of the Zorach Fountain in 2002. The completed restoration was celebrated in 2005.
The Maine Arts Commission called the piece “perhaps the finest piece of outdoor sculpture in the state,” according to the Friends.
Betsy Harrington, left, a Friends of the Zorach Fountain board member, and Steve Balboni, director of Bath’s Parks and Recreation Department, are among those involved with a major renovation of the Zorach Fountain, a centerpiece of Library Park in Bath.