Something wonderful debuts in Topsham on June 2. It’s a new, 12 acre town park at the Head of Tide on the Cathance River. A day of festivities is planned to inaugurate the new park. (To get there, go out Middlesex Road — Route 24 — in Topsham, turn left on Cathance Road and go a little over a mile to the parking area at the new park.)

The park includes a spectacular waterfall, a picnic area with a covered pavilion, open spaces to swim, fish, watch birds or simply lie in the grass. There’s a trail that leads back along the river to the Cathance River Preserve where the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA) has its Ecology Center. There’s a hand-carry access point for canoes and kayaks that allows one to paddle upstream or down.

The falls at Head of Tide on the Cathance River are among the most beautiful places in Topsham. The new park will provide enjoyment for all of us for years to come. Surprisingly, it is Topsham’s first park on the Cathance River — perhaps even its first park on any of the several rivers that pass through and by Topsham.

As we enjoy the park, it is worth noting how this park came to be. Who made it happen and how? There are lessons for the future in the Head of Tide story.

It wasn’t simply the doing of the town government, though they played a key role. It wasn’t simply the work of private individuals, though they played a key role. And it wasn’t simply the result of community organizations, though they, too, played a key role. It was the efforts of all these and many people, working together, that made Head of Tide possible.

Not so long ago, the Head of Tide was a decaying collection of buildings, an eyesore, really. Once the site became available, it might well have become a private development, perhaps a collection of townhouses.

That might well have prevented public access or even view of the Head of Tide. But that’s not what happened.

The town of Topsham has a Conversation Commission that identifies natural areas in the town that we should strive to conserve. The Commission has done an excellent job of that, but the town has allocated no tax money to purchasing land for conservation. Striving to keep property taxes as low as possible, the town’s voters put their priorities on schools and roads, police and fire services. If we only looked to government, that might be the end of the story — a more disappointing end.

Instead, a landowner left her interest in the property to CREA. CREA drew the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust into the effort to preserve Head of Tide for public use. Town staff contributed their support and expertise. Topsham Development Inc., a town-supported not-for-profit purchased the land at Head of Tide on an interim basis while the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust raised the funds to reimburse Topsham Development. The Land Trust has donated the land to the town and will continue to hold a conservation easement on the property.

Many people were involved in this extraordinary chain of events. All deserve our thanks. It took a dozen years. It took vision, persistence and cooperation. As a fruit of all these efforts by individuals and organizations, public and private, we now have a park to enjoy.

There is more that we can do together if we will continue to have vision, persistence and cooperation. My hope is our next success will be a park in Topsham’s Lower Village providing public access, recreation and good views of the Androscoggin River.

Doug Bennett is a Topsham resident and a member of the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust Board of Directors.

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