LEWISTON — Designs for the first improvements based on the River Front Island Master Plan would frame the Lincoln Street entrance to Simard-Payne Memorial Park and add trees and paths along the inside.
Members of the Planning Board reviewed the current vision for a revamped Simard-Payne park, from a plaza along Lincoln Street to the river.
Design plans call for more walking paths, a recessed area along the southern edge that could be flooded in the winter to create an outdoor skating rink and plug-in areas for multiple small stages set around the park.
Project Manager David Maynes of Richardson and Associates Landscape Architects said the plan seeks to tie the park more closely into the urban area.
"There has always been a call to bring the park further into the downtown," Maynes said. "This really gives you a visual presence as you travel down Lincoln Street."
City Planner David Hediger said the city would like to get started on some part of the work this summer.
"We have $720,000 to start with and we've asked them to come up with a phased plan," Hediger said. "The first priority is getting that connection from Lincoln to Oxford to Simard-Payne. At the same time, we want a plan to follow up with so in subsequent years we can come back to the board and to the council and say we've done this phase and here's what we're planning to do next."
Maynes said the designs are being done in line with the River Front Island Master Plan.
The master plan was written by Boston-based consulting firm Goody Clancy last year. It describes ways for the city to re-energize Lewiston's River Front Island, the area between the river and Lewiston's canals, from Island Point to Cedar Street. It includes the Bates Mill complex, as well as Simard-Payne park, the Franco-American Heritage Center and Museum LA.
The city used $180,000 of a $900,000 federal grant to pay for the plan. They agreed last year to use the remaining $720,000 on physical projects.
Planning Board members generally liked Maynes' designs but said some things called out in the River Front Island were missing.
The master plan called for an amphitheater in the northern part of the park, but Maynes said that was left out to make room for a soccer field that exists there.
"If you dedicate that entire area to an amphitheater, it becomes kind of a one-shot thing," he said. "You take up a lot of real estate for that one thing."
Instead, the park would have utility connections in several places where smaller stages could be erected.
"We figured a little more dynamic take on performances was a little better for this venue," he said. "You can set up a stage for a big event if you need to, and then you have this big expanse for people to sit. But when you don't have that big concert, it's not going to be there. It's for the youth lacrosse players instead."
It was a mistake, according to Planning Board Member Kevin Morissette.
"I think the amphitheater was not meant to hold a huge concert," Morissette said. "It was more of a connection to river. In my mind, I think it was one of the most important things for that park in the plan, and I'm sad to not see it in there."
Member Eric Potvin said he also wished Maynes' focused more along the Androscoggin River.
"A lot of your concentration is 100 feet off the river," Potvin said. "I would hope the city would really work to dress up the shore so it doesn't look like crap from the Auburn side. I don't know how far that $720,000 is going to go, but cleaning up that shore won't be that expensive."
Maynes' designs also called for some sort of tall sculptures to be placed on both sides of Lincoln Street at the park's entrance.They'd direct people into the park and could have banners strung between them to advertise events.
Planning Board Chairman Bruce Damon said that's fine as long as the sculptures fit with the culture of the city.
"Whatever that is, I hope it more ties to the railroad or the mills rather than trying to replicate the insanity at Auburn's Festival Plaza," Damon said. "They have their own contemporary look over there, but it doesn't belong here."
Maynes said designers had a rail-theme in mind for those sculptures.