READFIELD — Despite the cold and the looming threat of a storm, about 40 people gathered Saturday in Factory Square to dedicate the Mill Stream Dam trail system and picnic area.

Over two and a half years, volunteers spent about 200 hours and $6,500 to reclaim a stretch of land around the former Mill Stream dam from years of neglect after the end the mill-driven industry that had survived for more than a century along the banks of the stream, which flows south and east out of Torsey Lake in Kents Hill and into Maranacook Lake.

Jerry Bley, member of Readfield’s Conservation Commission, said Saturday the project — remaking the area around Factory Square into a picnic area and trail system that offers access to the top of the dam and a hill overlooking where the mill pond once stood — was the result of a collaboration with his group, the Readfield Historical Society and the Trails Committee.

“There are three elements of the project,” said Bley, who was joined at the event by Bob Harris, of the town’s Trails Committee, and Greg Durgin, who belongs to both groups and is a former selectman.

“The biggest and most important part is the pathway that goes up to the dam and out to the end with a railing. The second is a little stream path that gets you down to the base of the dam,” Bley said. “And lastly, there’s the overlook trail that begins at the end that goes up to the overlook of the old mill pond.”

The rush and tumble of Mill Stream over the breached dam and the rocks in the stream bed drowned out the noise of traffic passing on Route 17 at the south end of Old Kents Hill Road, but Christopher Dumaine, 83, only had to pitch his voice a little louder to be heard as he linked the present with his memories growing up in Readfield.

Those memories were in turn related to the area’s industrial past, which was detailed by briefly by Dale Potter-Clark, who has written about the town’s history, including a recitation of all the mills that operated on the stream over the past two centuries, which gave Factory Square its name.

“I worked in that box factory for one summer,” Dumaine said, gesturing upstream to where mill stood at one time. The boxes were destined for the local orchards.

“My job was reaching in that damn bucket, that wooden keg of nails, pull them out and put them in a nailing strip so the machine could nail them into boxes. Let me tell you, your hands — the first week — they look like bloody stumps.”

He attended the school in what’s now the Town Office, and he remembers that the school bus, which was not really a bus but a panel van with benches, ran only from Thanksgiving to Easter.

Dumaine’s parents brought property along the stream and ended up owning the Mill Stream dam, later abandoning it when the annual fee owed on it became too high.

The dam was finally breached in the flood of 1987 — the largest flood in the state’s history. Five years later, a wooden footbridge was built to span the stream just below the damaged dam.

Before Saturday, Dumaine last visited the area about a year ago to check out the progress of the project.

“I remember when the buildings were here,” he said.

But now that it’s been cleared out, Dumaine said he’s glad about it.

“Why let it not be appreciated? And if somebody’d interested in history, this is going to save a little. At 83, I won’t be able to tell stories too much longer.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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