Bristol Notes - September 2018
It is hoped this will be the first of a series of occasional letters on town affairs, sent perhaps two or three times a year. This is partly in response to requests from part-year residents for updates on what’s going on when they’re not around, but I hope it will also be informative to year-round residents.
I hope you’ll find this a useful service.
For the Bristol Selectmen:
Chris Hall, Town Administrator
Summer is over, the roads are less congested, and the most beautiful time of year is upon us. School is open, the Contented Sole is closed, and the first few leaves are beginning to turn. September is a very busy time in the Town Office as tax payments are due. This year, September 15th is a Saturday, so we will accept payments postmarked up to September 17th before charging interest on accounts. (When talking taxes, I always like to remind people that Bristol has the lowest tax rate in the state for any town of more than 1,000 people – 6.25 mills).
Although the ‘summer season’ now lasts well into October, it is already clear that 2018 was a good year for business at Bristol’s restaurants, campgrounds and cottages. Bristol Parks and Recreation has had a record summer, though we won’t have the final numbers of paying visitors for the season until we stop collecting admission fees on Columbus Day. Over 1,100 town residents or property owners have purchased Parks passes, a bargain at $5 a year.
The Olde Bristol Days parade on August 11th was widely held to be the best in years, and despite rain on Saturday evening the rescheduled fireworks on the Sunday rain date attracted a big crowd. Highlights included the antique car show at Colonial Pemaquid, lots of petting zoo animals at the Beach Park, and of course the ever-popular lobster boat races on Sunday morning. Cerina Leeman (co-owner of the Harbor Room) did a great job as chair of the organizing committee.
Bristol Parks and Recreation sponsored the successful Pemaquid Triathlon centered on Pemaquid Beach on Sunday, August 25th. 126 entrants competed to swim, bike and run in the event – an astonishing number for a new competition. There is a consensus that this should become part of Bristol’s annual calendar.
Update on Town projects
The Town has had quite a few infrastructure projects under way this year. We have completed the solar panel arrays at the Bristol Consolidated School and the Transfer Station, though at the time of writing we are still waiting for CMP to do their part before switching on at the Transfer Station. Meanwhile you can see for yourself in real time the power being generated on the school roof by going to: https://monitoringpublic.solaredge.com/solaredge-web/p/kiosk?guid=ba8e7256-1c76-4b1c-8a51-ec9fac620c52
These projects will save the Town about 10% over the standard offer price of electricity, but the real savings will come in year seven when we can buy the arrays at a depreciated price, after which the power is essentially free. The Selectmen plan to ask Town Meetings to set aside $15,000 a year for the next six years to build a reserve fund to make that purchase.
Bristol residents love our history and we take care of our historic properties. This year we completed new roofs on the Harrington Meeting House, the Lighthouse Keeper’s House and the Town Hall. We are now moving ahead with the restoration of the Liberty Pole in Bristol Mills. A new base pole for this will be moved this month to the Boothbay Shipyard for turning like a traditional wooden mast. The tall pine for this has been given by Jay Crooker from his land off the Benner Road: Jay’s great-great-great-grandfather gave the mast pine for the original pole in 1865! Another major historic asset of the Town is part of the Hammond Lumber property (formerly Poole Brothers) – see Land Trust News below.
The Bristol Consolidated School completed the rebuild of its parking lot in time for the school’s reopening on August 29th. I say ‘rebuilding’ rather than repaving, as the need for the work was driven by drainage needs. In winter, drains too close to the surface led to ice backing up and making the parking lot dangerous, while water was seeping into the basement of the school. A generous donation by a resident has allowed the school to add new external lighting and speed limit signs to the project.
Another major school project that is at an early stage is a second ballfield. B.C.S. boys have a regulation-size baseball field, but the girls must go to the beach park to play softball on a regulation softball field. The School Board has long had at the top of its wish list the ability to host visiting girls’ teams to play at the school, as a simple matter of fairness and also to honor the legal requirement of equal facilities. It is hoped that the new field will be largely funded from donations from parents and alumni, foundation grants, and support from local contractors. $155,000 has been pledged to date, though more will be needed.
The Parks and Recreation Director, Lara Sargent, and the Parks Commissioners are busy preparing a master plan for the Pemaquid Beach Park, which will include a running and walking track around the perimeter of the park, a children’s playground, and a new pavilion. The present wooden pavilion is showing its fifty years’ age, and has been threatened by undercutting from storm surges in the last two major storms. With sea levels forecast to rise, the Commissioners decided to build a new pavilion at the same location but on concrete piles to raise it three feet above the flood hazard level. Theodore and Theodore Architects of Arrowsic have been retained to design the project, for which a foundation has donated $300,000 while numerous small donations have come in for the playground and the running track. The Parks Department is applying for additional, matching grants to make this a truly great community asset, with a new touch tank and educational displays from the Darling Marine Laboratory of the University of Maine, a community meeting room and an enhanced cafeteria as well as modern changing rooms and bathrooms.
Finally I must update everyone on the Bristol Mills Dam and its fish ladder. After the overwhelming 90% support by town voters in July for keeping the dam and building a new, more effective fish ladder, we have had a stroke of good fortune. Curtis Orvis, the retired engineer who literally wrote the book on the design of fish passage for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, has offered to work on the design of a new pool-and-weir ladder for Bristol Mills. Curt lives in Vermont and Florida, so he will work with a local engineering firm to handle the permits, but this gives the Selectmen confidence that we can ‘have our cake and eat it too’ – restore the alewife run without taking away the town’s beloved swimming hole and its fire protection water source. I hope we can get the design and the necessary permits in time to present at the Town Meeting on March 19th, 2019. The town has received a generous gift of $200,000 towards the fish ladder, which together with funds set aside at past Town Meetings makes us hope we can do the project with the money now in hand.
If there’s a common thread through the projects above, it’s the generosity of both year-round and seasonal residents in quietly donating gifts to make things happen. Remember that donations to municipal governments are fully tax deductible, just as if we were a non-profit or religious organization – please give some thought to Bristol when you plan your charitable giving!
Land Trust News
The two land trusts that conserve land for public access in Bristol are merging. The Damariscotta River Association (DRA) and the Pemaquid Watershed Association (PWA) are joining as equals, which will allow overhead savings and strengthen the combined organizations’ ability to protect land and provide public access.
A major acquisition by the PWA this year has been the Keyes Woods property, along the Pemaquid River off the Poor Farm Road. This has been made possible by the generosity of the family of George Keyes of Waldoboro, who volunteers as the Trail Steward of the Bristol Town Trail to the river behind the Bristol Consolidated School. It is hoped that new trails will be opened in the coming years to open up vistas of the beautiful marshland between Ellingwood Park and the Partridge Bridge on the Benner Road. Sensitive management will be needed, as this marsh is one of the state’s highest priority wildfowl nesting areas.
This summer brought the news that the Hammond Lumber property at Pemaquid Falls is for sale. Hammond has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Damariscotta River Association which must be completed by November. The DRA is partnering with Margaret Brown, owner of The Art of Antiquing in Round Pond, who wants the storage building on the upstream (northeast) side of the road for her business. The DRA will have an easement for access for walkers and for kayak access to the river on her property. Meanwhile the DRA will buy the downstream side of the road, and lease the historic sawmill (dating from 1828, but on the site of a 17th-century mill) to the Old Bristol Historic Society for 99 years for one dollar, with the goal of restoring the mill to working condition and creating a town museum and archive. The rest of the property – the site of Native American settlement for 3,000 years before the English came to Pemaquid – will be restored to a natural state and there are plans for an interpretive walking trail which will link the site with the Town Landing downstream. The Falls here are (like the Dam) a pinch point for migrating alewives, and fish passage improvements are also planned. First, though, the DRA needs to raise the funds to buy the property! At the time of writing, over $100,000 has been pledged but another $200,000 is needed – in cash or in pledges for payment over the next two years. More information is available at damariscottariver.org, or see http://bit.ly/campaign-for-pemaquid-mill .
Bristol Fire and Rescue
The biggest news from the March Town Meeting was the broad support for changing the Fire Chief’s hours and job description to become a full-time, salaried position. This was necessitated by the growing demands on the Department, both in terms of numbers of calls and the volume of training, record-keeping and maintenance work. Chief Paul Leeman Jr. has left his former job with the University of Maine, managing food service at the Darling Marine Center, and will be full-time starting November 1st. He will be based at the office in Fire Station One, in New Harbor.
The blue street number signs which help the Fire and Rescue crews quickly identify the location of an incident, are still available to order for those property owners who do not yet have them. Over 600 have been produced; there is no charge but donations to the Samoset Fire Company are gratefully received. The Samoset Fire Company is the 501(c)(3) non-profit that exclusively supports Bristol Fire and Bristol with additional funds for training, equipment and events.
Andrea Cox, member of the Veterans Memorial Committee, writes:
A new advisory committee has formed to plan and build a Veteran’s Memorial in Bristol. It was recognized that Bristol lacks a proper memorial; in fact a World War II memorial that used to be at Town Hall is in dire disrepair and has been in storage for many years. In addition to restoring the World War II memorial, the Veterans Memorial Advisory Committee is proposing to build a walking path along the Pemaquid River at Ellingwood Park. This Veterans Memorial River Walk will be a community-built ‘growing memorial’.
The intention of the Committee is to encourage community involvement in the planning and building, as well as any donations. These donations may be in the form of materials or labor for constructing the walkway, in personal or general memorials (dedicated plantings, engraved stones, flags/poles, historical items, etc.), and of course monetary donations to help make it all happen.
The Veterans Memorial River Walk is considered to be a ‘growing’ memorial in the sense that it will continue to expand and grow indefinitely. As long as there are Veterans to honor, this will be a place to pay our respects and remember our fallen.
The Committee also hopes to bring the community together to honor our Veterans through fund raising and other events throughout the year. For more information or to donate, call Sandra Lane at (207) 563- 2134 or email Andrea Cox at [email protected].
As of the beginning of September, we are still waiting for the final alewife count – the number of fish migrating up the Pemaquid River this spring. (The Department of Marine Resources pleads backlog of work and many unfilled staff positions.) However I can say that the number of fish counted passing the Bristol Mills dam was over 25,000 during the 10% of daylight hours that volunteers were actually taking a count. This suggests a migration of 250,000 or more – a dramatic turnaround from the 20,000 to 50,000 annual totals in recent years.
This success has been the result of a lot of hard work by the volunteers of the Fish Committee, and much credit must be given to those who constructed a new leader fence four years ago to steer fish into the current fish ladder. Alewives return to their home river to spawn after four years!
The goal of the new fish ladder (which will not require extensive human intervention) is to restore the fish run to something like the 600,000 fish a year that scientists say is the carrying capacity of the river. We also hope one day to emulate the annual Alewife Festival held at Damariscotta Mills!
For more information on any of the matters touched on in this report, please email Chris Hall at [email protected]. Thank you for reading!