BIDDEFORD – Plans are moving forward to create an urban park at a former industrial property off Main Street now owned by the city.

The proposal for Diamond Match Park would turn the 9.8 acre lot with 1,200 feet of frontage on the Saco River into “a great little escape,” city Environmental Code Officer Brian Phinney said.

“It provides open space for people to just enjoy,” he said, describing the wooded site that slopes down to the river, providing a sense of seclusion in an urban setting.

A review of the property was conducted last week to assess any historical or prehistorical features that the city would need to consider in its plans for the property, Phinney said.

The property, previously owned by the Diamond Match Company, was once the site of a large log yard and numerous buildings. The land was donated to the city in 1976 and was used by a wood pallet and crate manufacturer until a fire destroyed the buildings in 1984.

Because of the activity that has taken place on the property since the late 1800s, Phinney does not anticipate any prehistoric discoveries, but he said the foundations from buildings may be a historical element to incorporate into the park. After Phinney receives the report, the city will be able to solicit bids on final plans for the park.

Mitchell & Associates of Portland has drawn up a preliminary plan. It includes an open, grassy field, seating areas and an amphitheater with stage, at a estimated cost of $485,000, Phinney said. Funds for the project thus far have come from the city’s Community Development Block Grant.

He hopes to break ground on the project by early spring.

Ultimately, the planned river walk will link up with this urban park, RiverWalk Project Director Alix Hopkins said.

“It’s a major anchor to the river walk,” she said, which is projected to run from Mechanic’s Park to the Diamond Match Park, and ultimately Rotary Park, all along the Saco River.

The Biddeford RiverWalk Coalition has been working with city officials in Biddeford and Saco to integrate plans of both cities’ river walks and the Diamond Match Park, Hopkins said.

Biddeford City Planner Greg Tansley said the Diamond Match Park and river walk will be an asset to the city.

“It’s something Biddeford doesn’t have in its urban, downtown area,” Tansley said of the park and the recreational opportunities it will afford. “I can see that and the river walk as an economic catalyst for the redevelopment of the mill district and downtown.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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