SOUTH PORTLAND — The new gazebo is going up. The old footbridge has come down. Before long, paths, pond walls, additional seating and other amenities will be in place at Mill Creek Park.

The changes are part of a plan to improve the 10-acre city park. An update to the park’s 1978 master plan addresses issues such as accessibility, parking, invasive species and erosion.

“It really polishes the park in a way that is reflective of how the community, how the neighborhood, values it,” said Erik Carson, South Portland’s assistant city manager.

One of the plan’s big goals is to better connect the park’s various parts, said Regina Leonard, a Topsham-based landscape architect who was hired to revise the master plan.

She said those parts — the pond area, the space near the intersection of Ocean Street and Broadway and the southeastern section around the Military Museum and Learning Center — could relate more to one another.

Installing a path system, reconsidering the sight lines and improving the placement of elements like the park’s rose garden are some of the ways to create a more cohesive setting, she said.

On a recent afternoon, visitors at the park steered a toy boat in the water, fed ducks, lay in the grass and took in the view of the pond. At other times, the park is the venue for concerts, an art show, a Christmas tree sale and weddings.

Completed in 1950, the park wasn’t always as popular as it is today. Two key changes made it more appealing and accessible.

The closure of the “Million Dollar Bridge” in 1997 dramatically reduced traffic on the streets around the park.

And the rail line that bisected the park was transformed into the Greenbelt, a 5.7-mile trail connecting Bug Light Park to the Wainwright Recreation Complex.

“More and more people are using this open space,” said Sarah Neuts, South Portland’s parks operations manager. “It’s starting to get a little shopworn.”

The new gazebo is expected to be finished by the end of this month, said Karen Lewis, the owner of uncommon kitchen & bath, which was awarded the bid.

The structure will have Brazilian ipe wood for the decking, cedar shingles, a copper roof and a top designed to evoke a lighthouse’s fresnel lens.

More than two dozen items are on the list of remaining projects, some of which the city hopes will be sponsored by local organizations.

The list includes establishing more formal entrances to the park; adding walls and other elements around the pond to prevent erosion; expanding Millstone Plaza — a small area with two benches at one end of the pond; replacing the old footbridge, which was removed because of safety concerns; and moving the rose garden to the intersection of Broadway and Ocean Street, where it can appear as a gateway.

The new master plan also calls for a Service Monument for veterans. The citizen-initiated monument would be near the Military Museum, visible from Broadway and other parts of the park.

Federal Community Development Block Grants will pay for much of the work. One grant paid for the $82,000 gazebo.

The estimate for the rest of the work stands at $213,825. More grant money will pay for $100,000 worth of work over the next year.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]