WATERVILLE — Former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, his sister Barbara Mitchell Atkins, brother John Mitchell, and their families are donating $100,000 to help build a $1.5 million riverwalk at Head of Falls on the Kennebec River where the siblings lived in their youth.

The city plans to name the future gazebo in the park for the Mitchells, who are donating the funds to honor George, Barbara and John’s siblings, the late Robert and Paul Mitchell, as well as their parents, George and Mary Mitchell.

“My sister and brother and other family members are pleased to make this gift to honor our parents and our siblings,” George Mitchell said in a news release from the city’s RiverWalk Advisory Committee. “Head of Falls holds a very special place in all of our hearts. I spent much of my childhood there, as did my siblings. We are thrilled that the people of Waterville will soon be able to enjoy a beautiful park on this spot. I can’t think of a more appropriate way to honor our loved ones.”

Lisa Hallee and City Manager Michael Roy are co-chairs of the RiverWalk Advisory Committee, which has raised $900,000 toward the $1.5 million needed for the project. The City Council on April 3 will consider allocating $300,000 from downtown tax increment financing funds for the effort. Councilors also will consider awarding a contract for construction. If approved, the work will start in May and be completed in September. The park will be dedicated Sept. 29.

Roy said the city is proud to accept the Mitchells’ “remarkably generous gift” and place the Mitchell name at the heart of the riverwalk.

“The Mitchell family made Head of Falls their home for many years, and now the family name will carry on in this place for generations to come,” Roy said in the release. “Future visitors to RiverWalk will no doubt be inspired by the story of the Mitchell family and their place in Maine, American, and world history.”


Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro thanked the Mitchells for their donation.

“On behalf of the City of Waterville, I can say it is with great pride that we accept this generous gift from the Mitchell family,” Isgro said in the release. “With humble beginnings right here at Head of Falls to leadership on the global stage, the Mitchell family story not only represents our local values, it is quintessentially American and we are honored to make a permanent marker where it all started.”

Fundraising will continue through the spring. Those wanting more information may view the riverwalk website at www.riverwalkathof.com.

The project will include a 900-foot boardwalk along the river, the gazebo, which will overlook the river at the southern end of the park, a large children’s play area with a water component and information kiosks, trees, flower gardens and art installations illustrating the city’s rich history related to industry and the river.

Mitchell & Associates landscape designers, of Portland, designed the riverwalk.

In 2015, the Waterville Rotary Club donated $150,000 for the effort to celebrate the club’s centennial. The Waterville Development Corp. later donated $50,000, which was part of $300,000 the city raised locally to match a $300,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Funds.


Kennebec Savings Bank donated $150,000, Colby College donated $75,000, Kennebec Messalonskee Trails gave $15,000 and Inland Hospital gave $10,000. The Waterville Main Street organization recently donated $18,500 for the project, according to Roy.

Hallee and Roy took part recently in a PechaKucha-style presentation at Thomas College, where they focused on the riverwalk project, with Hallee showing 20 slides depicting the history of not only how the riverwalk project came to be but also explaining how the Kennebec River at Head of Falls has been a focal point throughout history.

People migrated to the riverfront from places such as Lebanon and Canada to work in the mills and live at Head of Falls. That history and the log drives that ended on the river in the 1970s will be part of the interactive educational components to be included in the riverwalk project.

In the play area, for instance, children will be able to play around a “log drive” installation and hand-pump activity to learn about the river and how it flows. They also may learn about the history of the area, including the mills and the people, as well as the economy and ecology and biology of the river.

The city several years ago installed water, sewer, electricity and parking at Head of Falls, which is off Front Street. In 2010 the city built a plaza west of the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, an informational kiosk, a walkway and landscaping. The city owns 14 acres at Head of Falls and officials believe that the riverwalk will be the catalyst for more development on the riverfront, which serves as the hub for Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, whose network through area towns can be accessed from that point.

The homes at Head of Falls were torn down during urban renewal, and the Wyandotte mill was burned down by the city in the 1970s.

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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