Residents, those who work in Kennebunk and those who visit are being reminded of a community survey due out in early to mid-June, designed to help the town plan for the future. The downtown area is one of the community’s four distinct areas. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – People who live here and those who work or visit, but live elsewhere, will soon be invited to take a survey about Kennebunk. They’ll answer what is great about the town, what makes Kennebunk special, what folks see as challenges, and a lot more.

Initially thought of as purely a branding exercise, the survey has expanded into more of a community opinion piece  said consultant Tina Radel, who is working on the project along with Economic Development Committee member  Maureen Flaherty.

Flaherty and Radel talked about the upcoming survey and what it will entail in a recent interview.

Answers to the questions will assist three municipal endeavors, instead of just one.

“It will help inform three pretty critical initiatives in town,” said Radel, pointing out that it will assist those working with the Comprehensive Plan, assist the select board with their strategic plan as well as provide insights into how Kennebunk might be branded.

West Kennebunk is among four distinct areas that make up Kennebunk. Residents here and in the other areas are being asked to keep an eye out for an online survey, due out early next month, asking about Kennebunk’s assets, challenges, and special places. The information gleaned will used to help the municipality as it plans for the future. Tammy Wells Photo

“We’ll be asking an array of questions, trying to understand the positives and the strengths, as well as challenges,” said Flaherty. “If we can understand the things we value, the aspects and characteristics we want to hold on to and preserve, and want to make sure don’t change, or (the ones) we think we ought to change, it will give us the best way to move forward together.”

A sampling of the questions asks what folks believe are Kennebunk’s three greatest assets and the three greatest challenges; what changes the survey taker would like to see in the next 10 to 15 years, and what they’d like to stay the same; what is unique about Kennebunk in Maine and why they live in town, among others.

Radel said the goal is to reach all sectors of the community.

Kennebunk is comprised of about 35-square land miles and reaches from West Kennebunk to the downtown area, Lower Village to the beaches. The year around population is estimated to be about 12,000.

“It’s not often you have a community with that many distinct areas,” said Flaherty. “Most Maine towns have a main street and surrounding area. All (four areas) have their unique strengths and characteristics.” She said they’ll use the information gathered to help determine how to support those unique characteristics.

As to the branding portion, Kennebunk Select Board Chair Blake Baldwin earlier this year said he’d had a conversation with someone who told him they loved the town just the way it is.

Kennebunk’s Lower Village is a good place for a stroll on a spring day. Residents and others who live here or in any of the other areas of town are being asked to complete a survey about Kennebunk’s assets, challenges and lots more, to assist the town as it looks to the future. The survey is expected to be online in early to mid-June. Tammy Wells Photo

“Change will come whether we like it or not,” said Baldwin. “It’s not a question of if you have a brand or not, but if it is one you choose or others imply. It will happen regardless.”

The branding exercise began in 2019 with the Economic Development Committee and paused during the height of the pandemic. The committee took up the work again again late last fall. There is currently $30,000 budgeted toward the process and another $30,000 is in the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Folks will be able to access the survey on the town website, through social media, and through email. It is expected to be available in early to mid -June, Flaherty and Radel said.

The beaches, West Kennebunk ,the Main Street area downtown and Lower Village all make up Kennebunk. What makes the town special? What are its challenges ahead? The town will roll out a survey in early to mid-June and are asking folks to take the time to fill it out, to help in strategic planning, with the Comprehensive Plan and with branding. Tammy Wells Photo

The completed survey could generate more questions. Small focus groups could ensue, as well as perhaps some one-on-one interviews, if more information on certain topics is indicated.

“Surveys give us the temperature,” said Flaherty.

In the end, whether a logo is needed may or may not be applicable, said Flaherty. “We’re not going into this with a determined set of outcomes. If it makes sense to create a more classic logo, we’ll pursue that avenue.”

She said the once the information is in, they’ll  analyze it and formulate a strategy on how to move forward.

“It we don’t take the time to get this input from our citizens, how do we plan for the future?” she said. “We encourage people to participate.”

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