READFIELD — The last grist mill is gone from Factory Square. Only a foundation remains, camouflaged by shrubs and leafy green trees.

But Factory Square, on Mill Stream Road just off Giles Road, is now the site of a project to restore the area around the lower Mill Stream Dam so it can be incorporated into the town’s trail system.

“Readfield has an extensive trail system, one of the best in central Maine,” said Jerry Bley, a member of the town’s Conservation Commission and one of three men chairing the effort.

“There is no more important place in Readfield’s history than this dam,” Bley added. “That dam was essential to the industrial beginnings of Readfield. Coincidentally, it also ties in well to the town’s trail and sidewalk system.”

The sidewalk runs from the Town Office along Main Street to the Readfield fairgrounds and Maranacook School, both of which have their own trails.

Mill Stream Dam, which was destroyed in the historic flood of April 1987, is located a short walk from the Town Office and within shouting distance of busy Route 17, locally known as Main Street.

Some broken slabs of reinforced concrete remain at the dam site while others rest on banks farther downstream.

The intent of the effort is not to rebuild the dam, but to provide public access to the natural surroundings where the section of Mill Stream that had been Mill Pond meanders through a low, grassy area. The group hopes to start work on the Mill Stream Dam Restoration project later this year, with the hope of finishing it as soon as possible.

“We will stabilize it to some degree, nothing major engineering-wise,” said Bley.

Bley, Bob Harris of the town’s Trails Committee, and former selectman Gregory Durgin, who is a member of both groups, walked the site Thursday morning. They pointed to the locations of future trails, climbed to an overlook, and pointed out the nearby wooden bridge along a gravel path leading to the Town Office, where they hope visitors to the area will park. The wooden footbridge was built five years after the dam was destroyed.

Mill Stream runs between Torsey Pond and Maranacook Lake, with the Mill Stream Dam the lowest of four dams.

“It’s just a very quiet, serene, reflective place,” Durgin said.

Part of the job will require removing some of the invasive vegetation overrunning the dam.

The Mill Stream’s lower dam was built in 1843 by Dudley Fogg, according to a history of the area published by Dale Potter-Clark in May 2014.

At one point, Harris said, there were 22 mills along the stream, including a couple of grist mills, a sawmill, a cotton mill, a wagon shop, a box and barrel factory and a cheese factory, and all used mechanical power to make their goods. The sawmill was apparently first, built in about 1795, and likely turned out lumber used to construct many homes in Readfield.

Harris recalled the former Mill Pond serving as a nice swimming hole. “When I moved here, we didn’t have a town beach,” Harris said.

When the dam breached, the pond drained, leaving only the stream winding through a wetland.

Those working on the restoration project have a $7,000 fundraising goal. They made a huge dent in that recently with a sold-out benefit supper May 22 put on by the Emporium in Readfield. All the proceeds – $2,700 – went toward the project, and the group hopes to receive a $2,000 grant. In the meantime, it is accepting tax-deductible donations made out to the Readfield Mill Stream Dam Project and mailed to P.O. Box 336, Readfield, ME 04355.

One of the articles on the Readfield ballot June 14 asks whether voters want to amend the town’s Administrative Ordinance to allow donations in excess of $100 to be accepted and recorded by the “Collection Clerk or designee” and a receipt provided. While the article itself is generic, it is designed to encompass donations to the project, the organizers said.

A sign on the stream property indicates that the area is closed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“It had been a bit of a hangout in times past,” Bley said.

While the town owns the stream and the property around it, an adjacent landowner, Bob Bittar, who is restoring a home built in the 1880s, has said he will grant access so a path can be created to the overlook.