Camden fundraisers ready to work on play area plan

By Susan Mustapich | Apr 12, 2017
Courtesy of: Town of Camden The mixed-use concept developed by the Tannery Work Group offers a home to the Camden Farmers Market, children's play area, picnic and park area, and a possible site for a future building.

CAMDEN — A fundraising group is ready to spring into action, now that the Tannery Work Group has finalized recommendations for the town-owned property on Washington Street.

Under the working name of Friends of Camden River Park, the group is recruiting new members, and is ready to accept pledges to support development of a playground and the re-greening of portions of the property, which was once the home of a tannery.

Tom Resek, Eleanor Masin-Peters, Steve Gold and others formed the Friends group several years ago, to support a proposal to house the Camden Farmers' Market, a playground, picnic tables, a sculpture garden, and park space to complement the River Walk on the Washington Street property. The Camden Farmer's Market, which recently signed an agreement with the town of Camden to relocate to Washington Street in May, showed support for the plan early on.

The Friends then placed fundraising plans on hold, while the Select Board-appointed, 14-member Tannery Workgroup developed recommendations for the property over a two-year period. Resek and Gold were members of the Tannery Work Group, which finalized its plans in March. The Work Group's final recommendations closely echo the visions of the earlier Friends group: an area designated for the Camden Farmers Market, green space particularly along the area close to the Megunticook River and the River Walk, a natural play area for children, and an area reserved for future buildings, whether community or commercial.

The community-based fundraising effort is consistent with the Work Group's overall objectives for the site, including: preserve green space and enhance the aesthetics of the riverwalk and overall Tannery site; and protect or enhance town finances by avoiding expenses, increasing taxes or fees.

Resek and Masin-Peters said April 7 that initial fundraising will focus on the playground, followed by restoration of the site's green space.

Currently, the Friends are accepting pledges, but are not yet collecting funds. They plan to seek Select Board approval for the town of Camden to receive the funds, which would then make the donations tax-deductible.

The group is also recruiting volunteers for active fundraising work. While the Friends have a mailing list of contacts and people who are interested, new members are sought as fundraising begins.

The town-owned land, long called the Apollo Tannery property, has not yet been renamed. The Apollo Tannery closed its doors in 1999. The town acquired the property in 2003, and financed an extensive environmental cleanup, through a municipal bond and federal grants. The remediation work was completed in 2008.

Roger Moody, chairman of the Tannery Work Group, recommended a new name be chosen, at the Work Group's final presentation before the Camden Select Board March 21. Moody said the Work Group had brainstormed a number of names, and that it was time to leave the tannery name behind, and to move forward.

Most of the naming suggestions contain the words river and park: Camden River Park, Megunticook River Park, Riverwalk Community Park and Millville River Park. Other naming suggestions honor community members who contributed much to the town and who recently passed away: Lennyville, Sonny Goodwin Park and Parker Laite Park.

Moody said that as the Work Group wrapped up, the members focused on implementation.

Moody said the actions recommended include seeking Brownfields grants to provide additional landscaping cover on the site; design approval for the adventure playground and sculpture garden, the encouragement of community fundraising for parts of the overall plan, and in the future requesting proposals for development of a building on the site that could be leased.  Moody suggested that the Select Board appoint small focus groups to define the scope and budget for each phase of property's development.

To contact Friends of Camden River Park, email tresek@gmail.com or eleanormasin@yahoo.com.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.

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