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Report recommends changes for Mill Creek Park in South Portland

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Report recommends changes for Mill Creek Park in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — A landscape architect has recommended creating a gateway to Mill Creek Park at the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street – a proposal that would change the proposed spot of a monument honoring military service members.

Other recommendations for improving the park include removing the rose garden to increase sight lines into the park and building an internal trail network to increase circulation.

The recommendations are part of a preliminary report presented to the City Council on Monday night by Regina Leonard, a Topsham-based landscape architect hired by the city to update the park master plan.

The study, which was produced after a series of public meetings and in consultation with stakeholders, is estimated to cost between $10,000 to $15,000.

Leornard said she recommends expanding the mill stone plaza at the corner of Ocean and Market streets and moving the rose garden, which the city considers to be high maintenance.

Instead, a new garden with more sustainable plants is being proposed for the Broadway-Ocean Street corner, which would also include an arboretum. Leonard said that area already has 22 different species of trees and shrubs, so all the city would have to do is label them. 

Meanwhile, a salt marsh restoration is also being recommended near Trout Brook. That, along with the arboretum, would provide educational opportunities for school children, she said.

Leonard said she has already convinced the city to reconsider a plan to use $85,000 in federal grant money to purchase a new, prefabricated steel gazebo.

Instead, Leonard said the city will issue a request for proposals to local craftsmen, who will be asked to design a gazebo. She hopes the result will be a "well-crafted and visually exciting gazebo" that will be placed close to the pond edge.

"The gazebo sets the tone for the whole park," she said.

Leonard said her report will recommend building permanent banking around 25 percent of the pond, similar to the design of Deering Oaks Park in Portland. Lesser erosion controls are proposed for the rest of the pond edge.

Meanwhile, Leonard blamed water quality problems on ducks, since the city doesn't use fertilizers and pesticides.

Leonard said it will be up to the city to determine a policy on ducks, which attract many people and children to the park.

"We do get into that push and pull," she said.

Mayor Tom Coward said he was impressed with the recommendations for the 10-acre park, indicating that many of the improvements, like clearing brush, could be done inexpensively using volunteers.

Although final cost estimates are being ironed out for the final report due in April, Coward estimated it would cost "a couple hundred thousand dollars" to execute the plan.

Coward said he was particularly impressed with the relocation of the proposed service monument from the corner of Broadway and Ocean Street to underneath the trees next to the Maine Military Museum.

"It puts a really dignified setting for that monument," Coward said. "It's a very distinguished and formal setting that really enhances it."

Coward said the relocation was approved by a majority of those on the Service Monument Committee, who were initially steadfast about the original location when objections were raised by the Friends of Mill Creek Park.

Two members of the committee did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net