It is typical to see Charlie Poulin volunteering in the South End of Waterville where he grew up, and Tuesday was no exception.

Poulin, 80, was among several people who turned out just before 9 a.m. to help Waterville Community Land Trust members erect a 10-by-14-foot gazebo in a park and community garden they are continuing to develop on Water Street, just south of the intersection with Grove Street.

Doug Kane pulled up in his white pickup hauling a flatbed trailer with all the materials for the gazebo. The volunteers unloaded it, sorted the parts and began to assemble them. Poulin, who worked at Ware-Butler Building Supply 46 years before retiring 12 years ago, helped position cedar posts as Nancy Williams, vice president of the land trust, orchestrated the project.

“Nancy, she’s quite a worker,” Poulin said. “She ain’t afraid of work, I’ll tell you.”

Anyone who knows Williams will tell you she has done a tremendous amount for Waterville since she came here in 2013 from upstate New York and started the land trust, which enables people with low incomes to purchase homes. The trust supports neighborhood preservation and improvement by developing affordable housing and other community assets.

“She’s a ball of energy,” said Paula Saul, land trust president. “We’re all volunteer. We hire if we have to, for construction projects. But we try to do as much as we can with just volunteers and Nancy is the driving force behind all of this. I tell people I’m only the president. Nancy’s our brain trust. She is the one we go to for everything. She loves to do all this stuff.”


Williams applies for grants and people donate money or houses to the land trust, which seeks to buy homes, fix them up and sell them at affordable prices while retaining the land under them. Members have renovated two houses so far, and the trust bought the land on which the park sits. They focused first on the South End area of the city but the goal has always been to expand to other parts of the city.

“We’re willing to go anywhere in Waterville,” Saul said. “Because of COVID and the rising cost of homes, it’s harder for us to get a house because they go so quick.”

Williams applied for and received a grant from the Davis Foundation to build the park and gazebo. Volunteers have been working to clear the land east of the park near the Kennebec River where bald eagles, crows and other birds fly overhead, sturgeon can be seen leaping out of the water and other wildlife, including fox, roam the area.

“We had somebody come in and go through the trees to let us know what’s invasive and what is native and we’ve had it surveyed,” Saul said. “Eventually, we’re looking to put in a walkway and boardwalk so people can come down here and watch the birds.”

An Eagle Scout planted flowers and shrubs in the park, as well as along the bank below the gazebo, according to Saul.

“Most everything we have is donated because we are a nonprofit,” she said. “Once we have the gazebo up and secure, Nancy’s going to order a couple benches and we’re going to put them under it so people can enjoy our park, rain or shine.”


Land trust board member Diane Weinstein; her husband, City Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6; and their son, Bryan, came to volunteer Tuesday. Parker Beverage, husband of City Planner Ann Beverage, was there, as were Saul’s husband, Allan, a member of the land trust board, and Peter Moulton.

For Poulin, the park area brings back memories of his childhood.

Volunteers look over instructions with Doug Kane, right, on Tuesday as they began to assemble a gazebo that overlooks the Kennebec River along Water Street in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“This was our playground, right here,” he said. “We used to go down in the woods and build cabins. There was a dump where the Donald V. Carter Memorial Bridge is now and that’s where we used to go to collect iron and aluminum and copper. That’s how we used to make our money. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. Five or six dollars, to us, was good money.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here weekly. She is the author of the book “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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