The original design for the Cote Street nature park in Lewiston, above, featured multiple trailheads earlier this year. It’s been scaled back to one and a parking area off Ashmount Street due to neighborhood concerns. City of Lewiston graphic

LEWISTON — The City Council has put the development of a proposed 14-acre nature park on hold after hearing concerns from the public, but will face a decision in the coming months on how to meet federal grant requirements that the park would have addressed.

Following a lengthy debate Tuesday, the council directed staff to shelve the nature park plan for now, and instead look into the possibility of using grant funding for a park at Island Point, located in the city’s riverfront area.

The nature park project, bordered by Cote and Ashmount streets and Hilltop Avenue, was unveiled early this year, featuring elements such as a natural play area, trails and boardwalk through the forest and wetland areas.

Following a City Council workshop presentation last month, several abutters said they’re worried the park will attract the city’s unhoused population or fall into disrepair due to a Public Works staff that is stretched thin.

The nature park is one of several recreational areas city staff have proposed or completed since 2020. Due to federal grant requirements, the city was required to replace the recreational land that became Connors Elementary School on Bartlett Street. Land and water conservation funds require that a park built with the grant is maintained in perpetuity, and if not, that it be replaced by a park elsewhere with an equal land and recreational value.

While one councilor said the city should simply not move forward with accepting the grant funds, city staff and other officials said it would put the city in jeopardy of losing all future grant funding from the program, or be required to pay back money already used.


Public Works Director Mary Ann Brenchick said roughly $103,000 had been spent on the design and other elements so far, but the entire park project was slated to cost $521,000. She said the city has received about $180,000 from a federal grant toward the effort.

Councilor Rick Lachapelle argued that the city could save money by not accepting any more grant funds, but Brenchick said because the city has already accepted the funds, the additional recreational land must be identified and made public.

I’m fine with not having any more parks in this city, we have plenty of parks,” Lachapelle said.

Due to the public feedback received so far against the nature park, Lachapelle and Councilor Lee Clement suggested the city look into the potential for using the funds toward Island Point, land next to the Great Falls and adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street.

Councilor Stephanie Gelinas said she was initially excited by the nature park project, but said she’s a “strong believer that we have to listen to public comment.”

At least one member of the public criticized the city’s public process, which included an online survey that reflected that a majority of people had a favorable view of the nature park proposal.


Mayor Carl Sheline said his concern for focusing on Island Point is that there are already two riverfront parks nearby.

“Is this just because we don’t have any spaces left, or is it highest and best use of this land?” he said.

Brenchick said she’s opposed to potentially putting the federal funding “in jeopardy forever,” but said staff does have time to look into other options. She said city administration has also been advocating for possible changes to the federal rules that would allow municipalities to use the funds for maintaining existing parks.

She said a decision is not needed until late winter, but a deadline for completion is August 2023.

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