Work begins to revitalize Mill Creek Park in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Work began this week on the first phase of the revitalization of Mill Creek Park. 

On Tuesday, construction crews razed the park’s Rose Garden and started a new path system around the pond, which was drained. Mill Stone Plaza, near Ocean Street, was cleared of trees and shrubs for renovation and expansion.

The 10-acre park also will get retaining walls and a new fountain at the pond, a new public garden (replacing the old rose garden), improvements around the veterans monument and the construction of a formal entrance at the intersection of Ocean Street and Broadway, including a wrought-iron gateway arch.

“This park has been a focal area of our community for years,” City Manager Jim Gailey said. “We thought it was time to pay some attention to it and bring it up, do some maintenance.”

Although early estimates put the project cost at $385,000, the park renovations will cost the city only about $321,000, and will be funded entirely by federal grants. Peters Construction, the Gorham-based company doing the work, expects the project to be finished by the end of July. 

Regina Leonard, a Topsham-based landscape architect, designed the changes to the park. She outlined them in an interview last week:

Gateway: Waist-level stone walls will be built around the Ocean Street and Broadway sides, leading to a gateway at the corner of the park facing the intersection. The entry will be outfitted with an arched, wrought-iron sign that”Mill Creek Park.”

• New path system: The only paths in the park now run from Ocean Street through the former rose garden. Paths will be built around the pond, from Cottage Road to Ocean Street, through the new public garden and to the veterans memorial. Leonard said the path system will allow more exploration, and bring people to parts of the park that are less-travelled than the pond, where most foot traffic goes today.

Mill Stone Plaza: The plaza at the bank of the pond near Ocean Street will be expanded, with eight benches curving around the pond atop granite paver stonework that extends to the pond retaining wall. In-ground lights and cobblestones will be spaced along the pond’s edge, for ambiance and to create a visual barrier, to keep people form stumbling into the water. 

Formal public garden: This garden, placed at the new gateway entrance, will replace the former rose garden, which was in the middle of the park.

“The Rose Garden blocked the views across the park, and hid the area of the park over by Broadway,” Leonard said. “There was no visibility between the heavily used park space and the rest of the park.” The new garden will circle a central planting and sport eight benches and a variety of flowering plants, trees and low-maintenance breeds of roses. 

Veterans Green: The area around the veterans monument will be renovated to include a sitting area, paths wide enough for a color guard and improved landscaping.

Fountain: A floating fountain will be installed in the pond, paid for by a grant from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, according to Gailey. The fountain will have a self-contained pump system, eliminating the need for an external pump house. 

The park improvements mark the beginning of implementation of the Mill Creek Park Master Plan, a 2010 document crafted by the city, Leonard and Friends of Mill Creek Park. That plan calls for even more sweeping improvements to the park, which Gailey said could be coming in the future. 

The park will remain open throughout construction, Gailey said, but the city is asking residents to stay away from construction areas.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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Mill Creek Park improvements began Tuesday in South Portland, where workers started construction of a path system around the pond. Again

What about the ducks?

SOUTH PORTLAND — Mill Creek Park’s problematic duck population is safe for now, after the city abandoned a plan to call in the feds.

City Manager Jim Gailey considered calling the U.S. Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which could have removed the ducks from the park for a fee. But the plan was scrapped because the there was no guarantee the ducks would not simply return to the park. 

“There’s not much going on with the ducks,” Gailey said Monday. “People have just got to stop feeding them. But until we have a strong enforcement plan in place, there’s no way of curbing people from heading out there at all times to feed the ducks.”

The city has blamed the ducks for the dirty water in the park’s pond, and park-goers – especially those who try to enjoy lunch by the pond – have complained about aggressive ducks trying to steal their food. 

Since no plan has been found to ditch the ducks, Gailey said the city is taking other measures to keep the pond water clean.

“We’re filling the pond more often, and on the other end, draining it more often to put in entirely fresh, new water,” he said. “The pond’s not that big, and those two initiatives have really improved water quality.”

— Mario Moretto

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