Peter Garrett and Nancy Williams are shown Tuesday near the confluence of the Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream in the South End of Waterville. The Kennebec is behind them in the distance. The pair are working to install a trail along the river and introduce a recreational park that would overlook the water. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

I’m constantly amazed by folks who spend countless hours volunteering for good causes.

Peter Garrett of Winslow and Nancy Williams of Waterville are two such people.

On Tuesday they led me on a 1.5-mile trek through Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville and to the end of Water Street, where the road turns to dirt and a hill overlooks a beautiful meadow beside the Kennebec River.

It is in that meadow that Garrett and Williams envision a recreational park in the city’s South End that people can hike to, picnic and enjoy the spectacular views.

While we were there in early afternoon, a bald eagle flew over the river and other wildlife frolicked.

“There goes a deer — see it?” Garrett asked.


Williams pointed slightly to the north of where the deer bounded through lush green thickets.

“This is a floodplain,” she said. “Those are silver maples. I’ve never seen so many wildflowers.”

Peter Garrett, left, and and Nancy Williams walk through Pine Grove Cemetery on Tuesday along the South End trail system in Waterville. The pair are working to install a trail along the Kennebec River and introduce a recreational park that would overlook the river where it meets Messalonskee Stream. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

She and Garrett have been working about a year on plans to build a trail from Green Street Park on the north part of Water Street that would include part of the cemetery and a long swath of land that runs along the Kennebec, all the way to the confluence of the river and Messalonskee Stream, at the overlook.

They have been developing plans for what is needed on various parts of the trail and putting together a proposal to apply for a $50,000 Recreational Trail Program grant from the state to build the trail. The grant requires 20% matching dollars, which can include in-kind donations, Williams said.

“For instance, if the city has some gravel or equipment, or people from companies have big equipment, maybe they’d be willing to volunteer it,” she said.

For the second phase of the project, they hope to get a federal Land and Water Conservation grant for up to $500,000 for developing the park at the confluence of the Kennebec River and Messalonskee Stream. That grant requires a 50% match, which could include in-kind volunteer work and donated materials.


They plan to submit the trails grant application in September and expect to learn sometime in the winter if it will be forthcoming so work could start in the spring or summer of next year.

Peter Garrett, left, and and Nancy Williams approach the Carter Memorial Bridge as they walk Tuesday along the South End trail system in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

There are other hoops they must get through, including getting travel easements from the city, Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District, Waterville Sewerage District and Kennebec Water District. The city also would be asked to maintain the trail, which would be under the city’s liability as a recreational resource, according to Williams.

Many people she has spoken to are supportive of the trail, which would also be an economic driver, she said, and draw people from the city, region and beyond to hike and bike. Williams has dreams of establishing a small business district near Sunrise Bagel across from the Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street that would focus on eateries to serve people using the trails and Green Street Park. There could also be outfitters selling bicycles and items for bird watchers and the like.

“It would be an important resource for people wanting to shop for recreational goods and eat,” she said. “It would bring more people here, and more people means safer trails.”

Lest you think Garrett and Williams’ plans are out of reach, consider some of the things they have already accomplished over the years.

Garrett, 77, founded Kennebec Messalonskee Trails in 2000. The network of recreational trails through Waterville, Winslow, Benton, Fairfield and Oakland has grown to about 60 miles of some of the most scenic areas in central Maine. Williams, 73, founded the Waterville Community Land Trust, which enables people with low incomes to successfully buy homes. Both she and Garrett volunteer in other capacities, too numerous to count.


So there’s every chance their trail effort will come to fruition with help from city, state and federal officials — and the generous people and businesses in this community that have come through when important projects need help.

As Garrett says, the trail would benefit the region and draw people to Waterville who relish walking along a river.

“That’s what we love about this,” he said. “People love to be near water. They love the vision of water.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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