WILTON — Locals will have an opportunity to weigh in on plans for a new retaining wall for Wilson Lake at two public hearings this month or next.

Sevee & Maheer Engineers will present concept plans for replacing the Wilson Lake’s retaining wall. Terrence J. DeWan & Associates Landscape Architects & Planners have also developed landscaping plans alongside SME’s proposed wall concepts. 

Town Manager Rhonda Irish said redoing the 20-year-old wall provides the town with an opportunity to improve the recreational access to Wilson Lake.

“Basically we knew this project was the Wilson Lake retaining wall project, but we instantly realized that we could look at the bigger picture context here and while fixing the wall, look at potentially emphasizing the existing condition and essentially turning this into more of a park,” landscape architect David Truesdall said at the Select Board’s May 5 workshop via Zoom. “It has the bones of a park already.”

The 20-year-old retaining wall along Wilson Lake’s shoreline needs repair. The Select Board has been presented with three design options, a concrete wall, a living shoreline or a riprap wall. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback to the retaining wall project at two public hearings that will be held either late August or early September. Since Gov. Janet Mills’ Executive Order still restricts gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, Irish will require people to sign up ahead of time for one of the hearings.

“At this point, we just really don’t want to hold a Zoom meeting,” Irish said in a phone interview.

Irish said that past public hearings on the beautification of downtown Wilton easily drew more than 50 people. 

Prior to the hearings, residents will be asked at Wilton’s Aug. 17, Town Meeting to apply and accept funds toward the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The annual federal grant distributed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry matches 50% of development project costs for public outdoor recreation.

Irish will be working with a grant writer to apply for the fund that could potentially cover half of the cost of Wilson Lake’s retaining wall and the development of a waterfront park. 

The article on the town warrant will ask voters, “To see if the town will authorize the Select Board to apply on behalf of the town for federal funding assistance under the provisions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act for the development of the Wilson Lake retaining wall and park, and further authorize the Select Board to enter into the Land and Water Conservation Fund project agreement with the state subsequent to federal approval of the project.”

SME presented three different wall options to the Select Board’s workshop on May 5 that included a riprap wall, a living shoreline and a concrete wall. The riprap option protects the shoreline with a layer of sloped stones that have a lining underneath to prevent sediment from permeating the wall. The living shoreline uses a mix of stones and plants to soften waves.

At the workshop, SME engineer Jeff Reed spoke to the benefits of riprap walls and living shorelines.

“They’re really set up and designed to go back to a natural situation where they don’t need anything. You get them set up and they sustain themselves,” Reed said via Zoom. “I mean, obviously if you have a hard winter or you can have other things especially right off the bat, you might have to redo the plantings or some of those things to get it stabilized. But by and large, you construct them, you get everything stable and then you’re good.” 

Reed also spoke to the benefit of a shoreline or riprap wall decreasing the effect of waves reverberating off of the retaining wall and traveling toward the boat launch area.

Some of the proposed landscaping features of Wilson Lake’s new shoreline recreational area include a paved parking lot, new benches, ornamental trees and a walking path that would connect Bass Park with downtown Wilton. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Part of the landscaping proposal includes a pedestrian path linking Bass Park to downtown, a cantilevered boardwalk and a terraced amphitheater overlooking the water.  

“We just want to find what your objectives are,” Reed told the Select Board. “We understand the use and the future productivity; the bones of this project are going to be the wall replacement. We want to make sure that No. 1, it performs the way that you want it to. We want to make sure it’s something you enjoy looking at and it’s something that we can afford.”

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