WATERVILLE — The RiverWalk at Head of Falls was rife with activity Monday morning with people walking dogs, a Colby College professor and his class checking out the Kennebec River and public works employees installing a conduit for electricity to an outdoor amphitheater.

“I love it. I just started running here recently,” said Tom Crisp, 20, a Colby senior who lives downtown. “It’s looking nicer and nicer. I’m pretty excited about it.”

He was talking about the $1.5 million RiverWalk which features a lighted, 900-foot boardwalk along the river, a gazebo, a large interactive children’s play area, art installations and landscaping, including trees and flowers.

Though the RiverWalk is open to the public, workers are still adding features. A dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on October 6.

Former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, who lived at Head of Falls when he was a small child, will be the principal speaker at the ceremony.

Designed by Mitchell & Associates of Portland, the RiverWalk was funded with donations. The Waterville Rotary Club in 2015 gave the lead gift of $150,000 for the RiverWalk project as a way of celebrating its centennial. City councilors accepted $50,000 from the Waterville Development Corp., and that funding was part of $300,000 the city raised locally to match a $300,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Kennebec Savings Bank donated $150,000 and Mitchell and his family members donated $100,000. Other donations include $75,000 from Colby College; $15,000 from Kennebec Messalonskee Trails; and $10,000 from Inland Hospital.

City Manager Michael Roy and Lisa Hallee are co-chairmen of the RiverWalk Advisory Committee that is raising funds for the RiverWalk.

Roy said Monday that they are $18,000 short of their goal to raise $1.5 million, so donations are welcome and people may still purchase paving stones for the RiverWalk by going online at riverwalkathof.com. Many stones at the RiverWalk and inside the gazebo bear names of people and organizations who donated to the effort or names of loved ones who have passed.

On Monday, friends Brenda Whitney, John Griffin and Kathy Harding sat by the gazebo with their dogs, which they walk at Head of Falls every day. Whitney, 70, of Waterville, Griffin, 62, of Sidney and Harding, 62, of Waterville, met while walking their animals near the riverbank and now are good friends.

“We like the park,” said Whitney, as her 11-year-old brown and white boxer, Brady, and yellow, 6-year-old chihuahua dachshund played with the other canines. “We enjoy it. We come every day and we call ourselves the ‘dog pack.’ All our dogs are under dog command. This is a safe place to walk our dogs. There’s not much traffic and they can get exercise, and we don’t have to worry about being run over.”

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Griffin, with his 7-year-old beige Wheaton Terrier, Benji, said he likes the RiverWalk design and the change from what it was before — a lawn on the river.

“I’ve been coming here for five years at 11 o’clock,” Griffin said. “We never miss a day — snow, rain. We don’t care, we’re here.”

Harding, with her black, brown and white 2-year-old miniature Australian shepherd dog, said she loves the RiverWalk.

“We have a concern that the city will come and say ‘no dogs,’ and we’re very responsible as far as picking up their waste,” she said.

Crisp, the Colby student, was part of an art, community and ethical urban development class being taught by American studies professor Ben Lisle. The class met at Colby’s Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, which houses some 200 students, staff and faculty.

At the gazebo, Christopher Lord, 44, of Augusta, said he lived in Waterville many years ago and the riverfront was a sketchy place where people got into trouble and the police were always called.

“I’m glad it’s being taken care of,” he said.

Waterville public works employees were at the north end of the park, where they had installed a conduit to connect electricity to the stage area for the 150-seat amphitheater with granite seats. The amphitheater is near the “Ticonic” sculpture that was moved this spring from The Concourse downtown to the RiverWalk. “Ticonic” was created by Roger Majorowicz.

The sculpture “River Stone” by Jesse Salisbury of Fieldstone, LLC, of Steuben, was moved Monday from Castonguay Square to the RiverWalk.

The city several years ago installed water, sewer, electricity and parking at Head of Falls, which is off Front Street. In 2010 the city built a plaza west of the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, an informational kiosk, a walkway and landscaping.

The city owns 14 acres at Head of Falls, and officials believe that the RiverWalk will be the catalyst for more development on the riverfront, which serves as the hub for Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, whose network through area towns can be accessed from that point.

Homes at Head of Falls were torn down during urban renewal, and the Wyandotte mill was burned down by the city in the 1970s.

Roy said the RiverWalk exceeds his vision of what he thought it would be. The theme of the RiverWalk, he said, is “Waterville’s Return to the River,” and many people came up with a lot of ideas for what the RiverWalk should include. Features will include interpretive signs along the boardwalk for people to read about the river, native Americans and the log drive which ended in the late 1970s along the Kennebec.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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