HALLOWELL — A preview of the proposed pocket park was installed Saturday in downtown Hallowell as organizers seek public input on the site’s future.

Volunteers spent the morning moving items into place in a small portion of a city-owned dirt parking lot at the corner of Central and Water streets. By 10:30 a.m., the pocket park, also known as a minipark, was up and available for use.

The park project is being led by Vision Hallowell, a nonprofit group that promotes downtown.

On Sunday afternoon, Water Street resident Mariah Lancaster, 31, said she would like to see a park built because there is no place to sit downtown between Granite City Park to the north and the state boat landing to the south.

Rosemary Presnar waters flowers in a bed made with granite blocks Saturday at the corner of Water and Central streets in downtown Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“There’s limited places to sit,” she said. “A lot of people come here to tour because there’s coffee shops and stuff. Getting your lunch and sitting here would be good.”

In July, the City Council approved a test run of a park on city land now used as a parking lot. The city took ownership of the lot after trading land with Linda Bean, owner of the Dummer House, as part of the project that moved the house to Second Street.

The lot where Dummer House once sat is now a dirt parking lot, just west of the parcel where the minipark would go.

Initial plans for the temporary park called for it to be about 30 feet by 40 feet, but those plans were reduced to about 10 feet by 40 feet, the width of one parking spot. Final plans for the plot of land, including financial details regarding the park, have yet to be set.

Jamie Houghton, a representative from Vision Hallowell, said the park came together for about $500, with $400 donated by the Hallowell Area Board of the Trade. Houghton said Longfellow’s Greenhouse in Manchester offered a steep discount on plants at the park, some of which will be relocated around the city after the two-week test run comes to an end.

Jamie Houghton, left, Carie Colwell and Julie Horn put potted plants into a flower bed made from granite blocks Saturday as they build a preview of proposed Central Parklet at the corner of Water and Central streets in downtown Hallowell. Envision Hallowell is running a two-week test run of the minipark. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Proponents of a park say it offers a place to relax or rest, including for older residents and visitors who are walking the length of Water Street. Supporters also say a minipark could be a boon to downtown businesses and brighten the area.

The temporary park features a picnic table with an umbrella, a garden surrounded by rocks, four of Hallowell’s iconic Adirondack chairs and a wooden bench. It is lined with a rope fence decorated with pride flags, and potted plants are placed around the park.

Houghton said the park can seat 10 people.

“We looked at other cities that have done this kind of thing,” Houghton said. “The idea is it performs one function. Our function is conversation.”

That conversation will take place, in part, with an online survey. Houghton hopes that survey will help determine the best use for the lot.

“Is it going to be more beneficial to our community to have this paved and just be a parking lot? Possibly,” Houghton said. “The community needs to decide that.”

The most outspoken critic of the minipark project has been Aurilla Holt, co-owner of Berry & Berry Floral, which is next to the proposed park.

Volunteers work Saturday, August 22, 2020, as they build a preview of proposed Central Parklet at corner of Water and Central Streets in downtown Hallowell. Envision Hallowell is running a two week temporary park on the corner that the group wants to remove several spaces in a parking lot to make a small park. (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer) Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

In late July, Holt said that when she and her husband rented the building, they did so because of the lot. She said her customers often use the lot to pop in quickly, and her delivery drivers also stock vehicles quickly in the lot.

The lack of downtown parking has been debated for years in Hallowell. In June, a document released by the city’s Comprehensive Plan Committee addressed transportation within the city, saying Hallowell had “a reasonable amount” of parking downtown, with 225 on-street parking spaces and another 20 at the new lot on Central Street.

The minipark concept was introduced to residents as part of the reconstruction of Water Street in 2016, when urban planner Brian Kent recommended bump-outs at crosswalks and intersections.

The bump-outs were a contentious issue in the planning phase of the project, but they and the minipark never happened.

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