WATERVILLE — A panel working to help create a river walk at Head of Falls has identified seating, shade, lighting, a public bathroom, art and historical displays as high priorities for the project.

The Riverwalk Advisory Committee, headed by City Manager Michael Roy, met Tuesday afternoon at City Hall to discuss priorities in selecting a design for the river walk.

“Obviously, cost has to be one priority,” Roy said before the meeting.

The Waterville Rotary Club last year pledged $150,000 to the river walk project to celebrate the club’s centennial anniversary.

Roy said a fundraising effort must be conducted to garner more money, and he thinks Colby College and hopefully, the city, will pledge money as well.

The committee on Tuesday cited railings, a walkway, handicapped-accessibility, plantings and a river viewing area as high priorities; an amphitheater as a medium priority; and a meadow, and the idea of having two walkways, as opposed to one, as low priorities.

The committee looked at two concepts of a river walk drawn up by Mitchell & Associates, landscape designers, of Portland, while deciding what amenities the river walk should include.

Committee member Peter Garrett, former president of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, urged members to support having a public restroom at the river walk. He said he had visited the park at Head of Falls and talked with people who said they wish it had a restroom.

“There’s one at Mill Island Park in Fairfield and it’s used and it’s locked up at night, and it’s clean after several years,” Garrett said. “You’ll have to go and take a look at it.”

Roy said that he would, but he noted that a restroom would come at a cost and would have to be maintained.

“I’m not convinced it’s the city’s job to provide public restrooms down there, but if it gets to be as busy as we hope it will, maybe we’ll have no choice,” he said.

Discussions about the river walk are ramping up as the city and Colby are planning for a downtown renovation project. As part of revitalization, a transportation and parking study is underway and discussions about parking have included recommendations that more people park in the city-owned areas at Head of Falls and that the area be made safer by adding more and better lighting there. People who attended forums also have said that with more people living and working downtown, more people would frequent Head of Falls, which also would help make it safer.

The committee on Tuesday discussed the idea of having a water feature at the river walk, which essentially would be like a wading pool for children. Matt Skehan, a committee member and the city’s director of parks and recreation, said such a pool would require a lot of maintenance and it would not be supervised. City Engineer Greg Brown said he thought children would drink water out of it. Others agreed it would pose challenges.

“I think it’s great, but I don’t think it’s practical,” said member Gary Hammond, who also is a Rotarian.

The river walk would extend north from the Two Cent Bridge along the Kennebec River. Committee members discussed using the overpass between Front Street and the city-owned land north of the Two Cent Bridge as pedestrian access to the river walk area. City Engineer Greg Brown said he measured the overpass, which is structurally sound but insufficient for vehicles. The current entrance to Head of Falls from Temple Street offers good access, according to panel members.

The city several years ago installed water, sewer, electricity and parking at Head of Falls with the intention of drawing developers to the site and using part of the area for green space and possibly an amphitheater, but that development did not occur. However, the city in 2010 built a plaza west of the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, trees and other plantings, an informational kiosk and lights. The committee on Tuesday discussed having a restaurant and possibly other buildings there. Brown suggested having only one building with five stories that would save space and afford scenic views of the river.

Committee member Lisa Hallee cited river walk historical displays as a priority. The displays would include information about the Native Americans who used the river, the mills that were there and the people who lived on the riverfront many years ago. Information about the Kennebec River log drive that ended in 1976 also could be included, she said.

As part of the effort, a walkway and area for the Waterville Downtown Farmers Market, should it decide to move there, might be developed east of the railroad tracks along Front Street, committee members said. Roy said the farmers market will continue to be on The Concourse this summer, but probably not in 2017, because Colby College plans to build a dormitory on the site. Garrett thought putting a walkway and farmers market off Front Street would be a good idea.

“It would encourage people to use the river walk as well as the farmers market,” he said.

Roy said it is important to keep several things in mind while designing a river walk — cost, public access, maintenance, the connection to downtown, how the land around the river walk will be used, and whether it will be used year-round.

One Mitchell & Associates river walk drawing included a meadow as part of the river walk area, but Mayhew said the tall grass in a meadow would include ticks, flies and other bugs that would not be good for children and families.

“I don’t think a meadow is a good idea,” he said. “I think we keep the lawn the way it is.”

Brown agreed.

“A meadow, to make it look good, is going to take a lot of maintenance,” he said.

Committee members said they hope volunteers will help the Parks and Recreation Department maintain the future river walk.

Meanwhile, Brown said he thinks it is important to talk about the property around the river walk.

“How are we going to market it, and who are we going to put there?” he asked.

Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, also attended the meeting.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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