The full Library Board of Trustees was updated on the status of talks held by a task force made up of a several trustees and town government officials, about possible changes to Harbor Park .

The task force was formed when town officials invited library trustees to comment on a concept drawing of the area around Montgomery Dam without the dam or the Olmstead-designed Harbor Park masonry wall and seawall. In the drawing, the Megunticook River flows over the lower pathways, boat ramp and lawn in Harbor Park.

The task force met Aug. 18 and 25. At the first meeting, trustees stated they would focus their comments on impacts on Harbor Park, but not on the future of the dam. Trustee Marti Wolfe objected to the plan to remove the wall between the river and Harbor Park, and to the river flowing over areas of the park. There was discussion about retaining portions of the masonry wall, and modifying the seawall where it is being flooded by high tides.

At a Sept. 16 Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Kristen Smith summarized the Aug. 25 meeting. She said everyone involved felt it was the most productive due to meeting face-to-face in Harbor Park.

Trustees learned the Main Street bridge is scheduled to be rebuilt in 2024, and if anything is going to be done with the dam and seawall, this is the ideal date, she said.

Town officials are getting a new drawing to bring back to the task force, and the Library Board will be tasked with giving its conditions regarding what can and can’t be done at Harbor Park, she explained.

If the dam sluiceway and retaining wall are kept in place, the responsibility for upkeep will be transferred to the library, with financial costs the Board of Trustees will have to keep in mind, Smith said.

The consensus of the trustees on the task force is that the seawall should continue to be made of granite, but may change to a stepped design, she said. “Right now you can see what’s happening to Harbor Park and everyone agrees something has to change.”

She talked about the lower walkway of Harbor Park as the boundary where sea water is rising to and at times covering areas where benches are located. She mentioned this area may need to be raised.

Smith talked about possible changes for the seawall and park, including the height of the seawall being raised three feet, which would create a safety issue. At task force meetings, a stepped seawall design was suggested as a way of alleviating safety issues that could be caused by a higher wall, and as more resilient to flooding due to sea level rise.

Wolfe said the meeting with town officials was about collaborating collectively to try to keep changes to Harbor Park minimal if the town does remove the dam. She expects the task force will soon have a pictorial that shows a concept of what it would look like if the masonry portion of the dam and sluiceway are kept.

“As soon as we have that we’d like to get back to the group to make sure it conveys what everyone discussed,” she said. The task force discussions do not stop needed work on the seawall, which is something that will be worked on by library trustees, she added.

Town Manager Audra Caler, who was present at the trustee meeting, talked about the new drawing in response to a question from Trustee Elinor Klivans about the current drawing of the river flowing around an island and over part of the park. Select Board members Marc Ratner and Alison McKellar were also present at the meeting.

Interfluve is working on another drawing with the sluiceway and a masonry wall protecting part of Harbor Park and a stepped seawall, Caler said. The new drawing will be shown to see to see if there is agreement or if it has to be redesigned, she said.

Trustee Betsy Perry commented on the distinction between flooding, which Ratner has talked about, and sea level rise, which is affecting the seawall. She asked Caler for clarification on who will be responsible for new designs and financing for the seawall.

Caler said she hoped they would be working together. She mentioned limitations on how much private fundraising the library can do, as well as town government’s capacity to obtain funding.

Trustee Susan Fitzgerald asked Caler if town government’s plan is to go forward with an up or down measure in November on removal of the Montgomery Dam.

There will be no vote on the dam in November, Caler said.

Caler indicated even a June 2022 vote would be a stretch. “More work has to be done before people will be satisfied that enough work has been done — before we can assess facts and make an informed decision.”

Ratner talked about protecting the town from flooding events, now regularly seen around the country. He pointed out storms that are “big and slow are increasingly becoming common due to climate change” and are causing damage from tremendous amounts of rain.

While no members of the public spoke during an open comment period, Camden residents Robin Harlow and Wyatt McConnell wrote in support of improving, and responding to changes in, the environment of Megunticook River and Harbor Park.