January 23, 2019  
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Head of Tide Park in Topsham Grand Opening Planned
Head of Tide Park in Topsham Grand Opening Planned

It’s been 12 years in the making, but at last it’s time for the grand opening of Topsham’s Head of Tide Park. This 12-acre waterfront park encompasses the wild beauty of the Cathance River, with a 15-foot waterfall at the highest tidal reach of the river, hand carry boat access on both sides of the falls, picnic areas, interpretive signs, and a trail head connecting to over 7 miles of trails. The grand opening on Saturday, June 2nd features the following:

• Community History Forum: 10:30 am, Topsham Town Office, with several local historians detailing the rich past of the Park site and inviting the community to share their own stories.
• History Tour: 2:00 – 2:45 pm, at the park, (235 Cathance Road, Topsham.)
• Fly Fishing Demonstration: 2:30 – 3:30 pm, at the Park.
• Ecology Conversation: 3:00 – 3:45 pm, at the Park
• Ribbon Cutting: 4:00 pm, at the Park.

Attendees are encouraged to hike, bike, or paddle to the Park. To facilitate this, attendees can meet at the Cathance River Education Alliance Ecology Center at 1 pm to hike to the Park, or at the Topsham Public Library at 1:30 to bike to the Park. Additionally, shuttles will be running every half hour, 1:30 – 5:00 pm, between Topsham Public Library and Head of Tide Park.

“Head of Tide Park is a prime example of what can happen when a community shares a common goal,” says Topsham Parks and Recreation Director Pam LeDuc. “We brought together a collaboration of groups and individuals and each shared in creating the wonderful community asset that is Head of Tide Park.” BTLT Executive Director, Angela Twitchell, added, “Head of Tide Park is the result of a highly effective public-private partnership that fulfilled community goals articulated in Topsham’s Comprehensive and Natural Areas plans. Working together allowed both entities to accomplish so much more than was possible working alone."
For those who love the outdoors and yet want to stay close to home, this park offers:

● Hand-carry boat access to the Cathance River, up and downstream ofCathance Falls;
● A riverfront trail connecting to the Cathance River Nature Preserve;
● Picnic areas & open spaces to bird-watch, fish, swim, and just enjoy being outdoors in a unique setting;
● A strong resurgence in the local alewife run due to improved water quality following removal from the site of neglected residential buildings and an abandoned 4,000-gallon overboard discharge tank;
● A convenient take-out point just below Class IV rapids located upriver on the Cathance;
● Interpretive signs about the site’s history and relics from the historic feldspar mill that once occupied the site. These tell the story of what once happened here from its Native American roots, through its European settlers and their industries. It’s where the first Topsham sawmill operated approximately 300 years ago, with a feldspar mill later standing on this site in the early 1900s.

The Story of How Head of Tide Park was Created:
After more than 12 years of planning, acquiring multiple parcels of land, and building the park, it is no exaggeration to say it took a village to create Topsham’s first waterfront park on the Cathance River. This impressive community project started with the generous act of one woman, Elizabeth Kelso, and its success is an affirmation of the committed partnership between the Town of Topsham and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, to say nothing of the generosity, hard work, and determination of countless individuals and organizations, and funding from local, state, and federal sources.

Spanning 12 acres of land on both banks of the Cathance River, Head of Tide Park is situated above and below the 15-foot waterfall that is the highest tidal reach of the river. The Park came together through a complicated series of land transactions that began with Elizabeth Kelso’s 2006 bequest leaving a 1/3 interest in her property to the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA). Then CREA Executive Director, Rick Wilson, and the CREA Board decided to use this inheritance as a springboard for conserving the entire property. The BTLT Board agreed to act as fiscal agent for the project and allowed Twitchell to take on the role of coordinating the conservation and fundraising efforts.

The Town of Topsham’s Conservation Commission, Board of Selectmen, and staff quickly saw the value of creating this park and approved the many steps required to achieve the vision. The commitment of Town staff, Pam Leduc, Rod Melanson, and John Shattuck among others, to ensuring the success of the Park was a crucial factor in the project’s success. Topsham Development, Inc. (TDI) stepped up as an early hero, deploying its Enterprise Fund to purchase the Kelso property in 2009 (as well as the Direnzo property in 2014), then holding the lands as interim owner until the Land Trust and Town raised the funds to purchase them.

In 2010, BTLT purchased the abutting 1.5-acre Cutler property and donated it to the Town. In January 2018, conservation of the 7-acre Direnzo property across the street completed the park. As of March of 2018, the entire 12-acre Park is owned by the Town of Topsham, with a conservation easement held by Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust.

The story of Head of Tide Park is not complete without noting the foresight, vision, and commitment of those whose leaps of faith made this waterfront park a reality:

Rick Wilson, former executive director of CREA, and CREA’s Board of Directors; Liz Armstrong, former chair of TDI, and TDI’s Board members; the Town of Topsham’s Pam Leduc, Rich Roedner, John Shattuck, Rod Melanson, and Board of Selectmen; Jack Erler, lawyer for the Estate of Elizabeth Kelso; the Head of Tide Park Committee (Carla Rensenbrink, John Cullen, David Selleck, Bill Boyd, Steve Chandler, Chris Dwinal, Fred Wigand, Gary Fogg, Rick Wilson, Ed Mendes, Angela Twitchell, Kay and Dave Sutton); Maine National Guard 133rd Engineer Battalion; Topsham Fire Department; Angela Twitchell, Executive Diretor of BTLT and BTLT’s Board of Directors and staff ; and key funders, including Merrymeeting Bay Trust, Land for Maine’s Future Program, North American Wetland Conservation Act–Small Grant Program, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Maine State Planning Office and Department of Conservation-Water Access Fund, Senter Fund, and Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust.

Without these individuals, organizations, and many others who donated funds and countless hours of time and energy, this well-used and much-loved waterfront park would not have been possible.

For additional information about the grand opening: www.btlt.org/events or to learn more about Head of Tide Park’s history, ecology, and recreational opportunities: www.btlt.org/head-of-tide

Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2018 (Archive on Thursday, June 21, 2018)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre

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