GARDINER — As Joe and Barbara Jamieson travel up and down the East Coast between Millinocket and Florida, they are apt to stop and look around wherever they land.

On Tuesday, they stopped by the waterfront in Gardiner, looking for the city’s new historic pathway.

Their hostess, who had to work Tuesday, brought Barbara Jamieson to Gardiner to point out where the path is so they could entertain themselves by trying it out.

The Jamiesons will be among the first people to follow the trail through Gardiner’s history and downtown.

The historic pathway, completed in late June, is the result of a number of years of work. But when organizers started it, they had no idea where it would end up.

It started with the production of a series of panels, produced with funding from the Preserve America grant program, a federal initiative that encourages communities to preserve and honor their natural and cultural heritage. The panels tell the history over 12,000 years of the stretch of the Kennebec River where Gardiner eventually would take root.

When Gardiner city officials, with funding from Gardiner Savings Bank, started to remake the city’s waterfront, the idea was that the panels would be incorporated in the walls of a welcome center.

The welcome center was envisioned as a replica of an ice house — a nod to the ice harvesting operations on the Kennebec — and it would incorporate the restrooms and showers. But before that could be built, the money ran out, and the panels ended up in the windows of the former pool hall on Water Street.

Robert Abbey, a member of Gardiner Main Street’s streetscape team, said the organization was looking for a better way to present the information to people.

“It’s really quite a wonderful collection,” Abbey said.

The fear among organizers was that the panels had been on display at the former pool hall for so long that no one would pay any attention to them.

With the help of landscape designer Cynthia Orcutt, streetscape team members trekked around downtown Gardiner and scoped out the possibilities for placing signs, Abbey said, and they arrived at a general path.

“We theorized where they would go and she suggested the panels should go where they made sense,” he said.

Mark Newcombe, an Augusta welder and metalworker, built the structures to hold the panels, and they were placed.

Wright said the final portion of the project was paid for with funding obtained from the Riverfront Communities bond.

The walk starts on the waterfront at the Kennebec Chaudiere Heritage Trail welcome sign. The heritage corridor, which runs 230 miles from Quebec City to Popham Beach at the mouth of the Kennebec River, has been used by travelers and traders in North America for centuries.

The path loops north along the waterfront, across to Depot Square, along the Arcade parking lot and up to Water Street. It continues south along Water Street, up Church Street to City Hall and over to the Gardiner Public Library. From there, it crosses Water Street again to Steamboat Lane and back along the waterfront.

The path linking the 11 panels is marked by 85 blue sturgeon, stenciled on walkways or streets where appropriate.

“We had permission from the City Council to map out the trail,” Abbey said. “The thing we wanted to do is make it playful.”

Abbey said the path was tested the week before the Greater Gardiner Riverfest at the end of June. While some of the adults had to ask where the next fish was, he said, the children in the group had no trouble finding the path.

“We think it’s pretty obvious,” he said. “We agreed we would not paint on the brick sidewalks, so the fish are on the street. You can see them without much trouble.”

Abbey, a former grade school principal, is convinced that the pathway and the panels can be a starting point for students to learn about and study the rich history of the area, and possibly explore the information contained in the archives at the Gardiner Public Library.

The pathway is educational and entertaining, but it serves another purpose.

“We wanted a walking tour that would bring people from the waterfront park up into the business district,” Abbey said.

At the same time, the path can guide people visiting downtown to the waterfront.

Tony Genovese wants to see more of that. As the owner of Pastaz restaurant on Water Street, he thinks anything that brings more customers is welcome.

Genovese, who enjoys walking his dogs along the waterfront, said he’s not a fan of the city’s festivals that close down Water Street, because they chase customers away.

“Anything that brings business to Gardiner is good,” said Genovese, who has lived in Gardiner 30 years and owned his restaurant for eight years.

The Jamiesons, who stopped to pet Genovese’s dogs Tuesday, said they enjoy checking out attractions such as Gardiner’s historic pathways, including the new trail in Millinocket.

“We meet a lot of people that way,” Barbara Jamieson said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: