RANGELEY — A committee of business owners and and residents wants to spruce up Main Street behind the former IGA and Scribner’s Hardware to attract more businesses to the community.

At Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, a plan was presented for a park to be developed in that area, along with a parking lot. The existing buildings would be preserved.

Rob Welch, owner of Pleasant Street Bed and Breakfast, pointed out that the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce board was concerned about the appearance of the downtown. From the discussions held between chamber board members, a small committee was formed to look at the short- and long-term implications of beautifying the downtown.

Welch pointed out that such amenities as a sidewalk, a place to sit down, and a place to park one’s vehicle are all integral aspects of a potential customer’s in-town experience. The plan presented included green space for grass and vegetation, several benches and picnic tables with views of nearby Haley Pond, some trees and a gazebo.

“It takes a lot of private dollars,” said Welch of the improvement plan. “It takes bringing older buildings up to code. We had to look at different business models that could operate in the business area and sustain themselves.”

The buildings could benefit from some work, he said, and the committee is working with their current owners to get investors who could come in Rangeley and put money into them.

Welch referred to the positive business response to the project, as many residents and businesses have stepped forward offering to donate time, labor and machinery. The committee hopes to have the work completed in September.

“We’re really excited about this project,” said Virginia MacFawn. “The design professionals we’ve worked with are very talented. Careful thought has been put into each and every detail by the architect, and with input from the committee.”

Gates, Leighton & Associates Inc., of Brunswick, has come up with a preliminary design for the park.

The selectmen questioned the park’s boundaries, with board member James Stone noting there was private property in the vicinity.

“There was a controversy on how much we (the town) owned down there,” he pointed out. “It’s a very nice plan. I think you’re going to have to get the right dimensions of what’s down there.”
Town Manager Perry Ellsworth said he believed the drawing and survey conducted accurately depicted the town’s lot boundaries.

Another reason the park is being proposed is to take wear and tear off Lakeside Park by spreading out resident and nonresident park use. Welch touted the beauty of Haley Pond, and how investing in the area around it could draw business investment.

“We are a tourist town,” he said. “It is our business. This would bring back a lot of pleasure not just for our tourists, but our residents as well.”

However, Selectman James Carignan was unconvinced.

“The trouble is, everything’s dictated by the seasons,” he said. “We need to have something people can rely on 52 weeks out of the year.”

The project’s estimated cost is $100,000, with about half coming from in-kind donations of services, materials, and funds from nonprofit organizations and individuals. The committee members said they were hoping the town could contribute the rest through in-kind services and town budget funds.

According to Ellsworth, the town park reserve fund contains $40,125 and the general reserve $77,500 that could be used. He added that general reserve funds are typically used for emergencies.

Welch noted that the group has a permit for developing the park, and is seeking approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to construct the gazebo.

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