SOUTH PORTLAND — A process is underway that may produce a long-term plan for Mill Creek Park by next January.
Meanwhile, city leaders are shopping around for a new gazebo, which is expected to be installed this fall.
Earlier this month, the city began soliciting offers from landscaping companies to help the Friends of Mill Creek Park come up with a long-term care, maintenance and improvement plan for the 10-acre park between Broadway and Hinckley Drive.
The city’s request for proposals indicates the group is particularly concerned about health and safety issues of the park’s pond, which is overrun with ducks in the summer. Water quality is an issue, along with erosion along the banks and the safety of a pedestrian footbridge.
The group is also looking to improve lighting and accessibility.
Mill Creek Park is the only green space in the traditional downtown area, and is heavily used. Weddings are often performed in the park and the city sponsors weekly summer concerts. Summer usage culminates with the popular Art in the Park event.
The park is also heavily used in the winter by ice skaters and Christmas tree shoppers. The city also hosts an annual holiday celebration.
Development within the park has been an issue since establishment of the Maine Military Museum and Learning Center, which hopes to expand, and plans to create a Service Monument in a grassy open area near the Broadway Ocean Street intersection.
Friends co-Chairman John Ely said bringing in a landscape architect is vital to rekindling his group’s efforts, which have stalled in recent months.
“The process of hiring on a landscape architect is vital, in our opinion,” Ely said. “Without expert advice from consultants who are familiar with the various facets of a public park, with its multiple species of trees, plants and shrubs, water quality issues, and land use issues, I think we would be spinning our wheels.”
The last park plan was done in 1978 and it recounts evolution of the park, which was a grist mill 1722, a landfill in the 1900s and then finally developed into a park honoring armed service members.
Since that time, the park has undergone significant changes. Ely said the friends expect to use that 1978 plan as a template, removing recommendations that are no longer pertinent and accounting for activities that now take place in the park, such as the Rotary’s annual sale of Christmas trees.
City Manager Jim Gailey said there is about $85,000 in grant funding available for the group’s efforts, but most of that will be spent on a new, handicapped-accessible gazebo.
The friends group, however, has also started looking for funding from outside groups. With the help of the South Portland Land Trust, the groups recently received aid from Macy’s “Save Some Green” campaign.
Co-Chairwoman Stephanie Gilbert said the group received about $3,000 from Macy’s and has also received a $2,500 from Bangor Savings Bank.
The city is asking the landscape architects to consult with a variety of stakeholders throughout the process. Those stakeholders include the friends, Knightville-Mill Creek Neighborhood Association, the city manager, city planner and the Planning Board.
The landscapers are expected to publicly present their plan in January 2010.