GARDINER — Amy Rees envisions the arts community growing and an effort by city leaders to help preserve historical homes and buildings.

Rees is a representative of the Gardiner Board of Trade, working on a two-year community planning process that’s funded by a $100,000 Orton Family Foundation Heart & Soul Community Planning Grant.

The goal is to define a clear shared vision for Gardiner.

The trade board is a partner in the two-year planning process, along with Gardiner Main Street — a group of businesses leaders, residents, city staff — and Orton Foundation project advisors.

“Most of the time towns put together a master plan and then it’s stuck on the shelf and nobody ever looks at it,” Rees said Monday. “We want to make this more of something that is going to be a useful guide that people can refer to. If we say, ‘Here’s our goals and here’s what we want to accomplish,’ then we can have people applying for grants, putting aside money from taxpayers, the business community and state and federal governments.”

Rees said volunteers are needed for a 12-member community advisory team to help put together workshops and events to get people involved and see what they think will make the city a better place to live.

All of the ideas would be included in the master plan, she said.

“We want the whole community to work on it, so everyone feels they have some ownership and feel good about the process,” she said.

Nate Rudy, the city’s economic and community development director, said Gardiner officials are trying to make the project goals mesh with the city’s state-mandated comprehensive plan and its master plans for the downtown historical district, Cobbossee corridor and waterfront park.

“That’s what we’re talking about now — what do we want this to look like,” Rudy said. “We’ll be attending a training in Chicago with Orton the end of the month. When we come back we would have hired our project coordinator by then and then the wheels will hit the road.”

City Manager Scott Morelli said the grant will fund a 24-hour per week assistant planner position to help organizing and writing grants.

Ariana McBride, the foundation’s senior associate for northeast projects, said she was impressed with the energy and determination in Gardiner.

“We visited the community in early November and there were at least 50 people at that meeting who had a tremendous passion for Gardiner,” McBride said. “An example of this tremendous community effort is the waterfront project. It seems from what we were hearing that it is a shining example of how the community comes together to get things done.”

The city has raised more than $1.7 million for the city’s waterfront park, and included several public and private partners, plus volunteer committees and in-kind services.

Patrick Wright, director of Gardiner Main Street, said his organization is pleased to be one of the partner organizations in the Heart and Soul Planning process. During the next few years, Gardiner will change from a city with potential to a city that is performing, he said.

“We are blessed to have great people in a patchwork of organizations throughout the community who aren’t always working together to reach the common goal, which is to keep Gardiner an authentic, livable, vibrant city,” Wright said. “The purpose of Heart and Soul is to get all of the oars moving in the same direction, at the same time.”


Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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