Thousands used to travel to Merrymeeting Park for weekend leisure, according to Farrell. Contributed / Brunswick Parks and Recreation

Walking trails. Live entertainment. A dance pavilion over the Androscoggin.

At the turn of the 19th century, thousands of people from cities around the Northeast flocked to Brunswick’s Merrymeeting Park for weekend entertainment, said Tom Farrell, the town’s director of parks and recreation.

Now, after pursuing the land for decades, Brunswick has finally completed the purchase of a 42.5-acre parcel of the former park for conservation. And while it will take time and money to complete the next phase of the project, Farrell said, the town hopes to restore and commemorate many of the area’s historical features.

The property’s riverbank, which will be conserved thanks to the purchase agreement, is home to a wide range of plant and animal species, the Brunswick parks and recreation director says. Contributed / Brunswick Parks and Recreation

“This is one of the most significant parcels for protection that the town could have ever hoped to preserve,” said Farrell of the land, which is accessible only by boat, bike or foot from the Androscoggin River Bicycle Path near Route 1. “It’s a spectacular piece of property that most people have never been able to access.”

Brunswick had been after the land since before David Watson joined the town council in 2002. Numerous attempts to buy the property from the Ormsby family stalled over the years, before a team including town councilors, members of local organizations and an attorney successfully negotiated a purchase agreement last summer, Watson said.

“It was just a beautiful operation,” said Watson, who initially noted the land’s beauty during his career as a Brunswick Police officer. “Overall the team here was wonderful.”


The town officially took control of the property on Jan. 1, Farrell said. Despite the land’s $507,500 price tag, Brunswick paid only $75,911 thanks to numerous grants from sources including the Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Maine Community Foundation Land Protection Grant Program.

Accessible only by boat, foot or bike, the new land will provide residents access to the Androscoggin. Contributed / Brunswick Parks and Recreation

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Director Angela Twitchell credited Watson and Farrell for keeping the idea alive for decades, noting the land is “important to the people of Brunswick.” Twitchell, whose organization helped the Brunswick team strategize a purchase plan for the land, said the benefits of conservation are many, including protecting plant and animal habitats and preserving local history. But just as important, she added, was expanding the public’s access to nature.

“There’s a lot of beautiful special places in our area that, if they’re not conserved for the public to enjoy, will be only available to those who have enough money to buy them,” Twitchell said. “It’s really important that we can serve places that everyone can use and enjoy and not just those who are wealthy enough to be able to own them.”

Once the town procures additional grant funding, it will develop signage to mark the property’s historical locations, like a building called “the Casino” that once stood at Merrymeeting Park. Contributed / Brunswick Parks and Recreation

The town will pursue approximately $60,000 in additional funding to help restore the land, Farrell said. The money will pay for the construction of a system of waterfront trails as well as for signs detailing the historical features that once stood on the property, including an open-air amphitheater, a shipyard, and a central building known as the Casino.

In the future, Brunswick may also look to expand its bike path over the Androscoggin to the Driscoll Islands, which have also been marked for conservation, and into Topsham, creating a 9-mile loop for cyclists and pedestrians, said Farrell, who noted that plan was still years away from becoming reality.

But while the project is far from completed, town officials are excited to have finally completed a goal they’ve worked toward for years.

“It’s a substantial gift for Brunswick’s future,” Watson said. “Serving the community has been pretty much my life, and this is another one of those high points for me.”

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