GARDINER — The city has been without one of its best-known landmarks since the end of last year, when city staff tore down the 35-year-old gazebo because of concerns about its structural integrity.

A new gazebo has been designed, however, and it’s expected to be finished by mid-September.

The razing left a void in the Gardiner Common for patrons of the public park.

Eli Moody, 13, who said he usually visits the park every day, worried whether the city would replace the gazebo when it disappeared in December.

“There’s too much field, and that was one of the things that was great about the park,” he said. “It would make my day every single day I’d sit on it. It was great.”

Moody said he had wondered whether the city would just take out the concrete foundation and let it become another grassy patch.

Cameron Stevens, 14, lives a block away from the park. He said people were upset when the city tore down the gazebo.

“Me and my friends used to hang out all the time there,” Stevens said. “I remember taking family pictures on it. It’s a great historical landmark.”

Robert Lash, an owner of the Water Street Cafe and a Gardiner resident, said he thinks it’s crucial that the city replaces the structure.

“People associate Gardiner with the gazebo,” Lash said.

The city even included the gazebo in its new logo unveiled last year; and Heart & Soul, a two-year project culminating with an updated comprehensive plan for the city, also includes a gazebo in its logo.

Lash said he thinks the last gazebo was underused, and he hopes the new one will be used for more community events.

The City Council approved the new gazebo’s design earlier this month, following two months of work from a city committee to finalize it. The city issued a request for proposals on June 18 for the construction.

The Parks and Recreation Committee gathered input from the public about the design at an April public hearing attended by around 50 to 60 people, according to Jack Fles, the committee chairman.

The design is similar to that of the old gazebo in size and style. Fles said the goal is for the construction to be finished by Sept. 15.

The octagon-shaped structure will fit in the concrete footprint of the previous gazebo, with the exception of a wider set of stairs.

The stairs and opening of the gazebo will be twice as large to accommodate live music and other events better, Fles said.

The design also calls for a handicapped-accessible ramp on the opposite side of the steps.

Brian Kent, a local architect, donated his time to work with the committee and sketch the designs.

The city is contributing a little more than $8,000 from its bicentennial fund, and the rest will come from contributions by community organizations, businesses and individuals, according to City Manager Scott Morelli.

Morelli had estimated the cost of construction previously to be around $35,000, but the actual figure won’t be known until bids come back by a July 8 deadline.

Even without a firm total, organizations already have begun pledging donations to pay for the gazebo.

The Rotary Club of Gardiner has taken the lead in fundraising efforts. John Shaw, club president, said two organizations already have pledged $11,000 to a new gazebo, with $5,000 of that requiring matching donations from others.

Shaw said he’s heard from other organizations and individuals who are looking forward to donating money toward the effort.

“I don’t want to sound overly optimistic, but our task may be keeping people out,” he said.

Shaw, a Gardiner resident, said he remembers taking pictures of his two adult children before their high school prom on the gazebo.

“My children, who live in Boston, came back to visit and were sorry to see that there wasn’t a gazebo and happy to hear that something is going back there,” he said. “They have very fond memories of it.”

Shaw said he thinks people noticed how much they miss the gazebo after it was torn down.

It’s been more than than 35 years since the park was without a gazebo. The last one was completed in 1977 as a replacement for an earlier gazebo torn down in the mid-1950s, according to Kennebec Journal archives.

The design of the new gazebo has white railings and banisters and green lattice work at its base, similar to the last one.

It’s planned to be built of wood again, besides the flooring. The committee went with a synthetic composite for a longer lifespan, a suggestion from Kent, Fles said.

The plan also calls for a small, shuttered cupola to let in some light in addition to interior lighting from the ceiling.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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