February 5, 2013

Public safety project opens long-lost, unique view of Ticonic Falls from Winslow

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINSLOW -- Commuters traveling west across the Ticonic Bridge now can spy a part of the river that had been obscured for more than a decade.

click image to enlarge

Jack Nivison speaks from a wooded area beside the Kennebec River, on the Winslow side of the Ticonic Bridge, where crews have cleared debris on Tuesday. The site is near where a barber shop, drug store and photography shop once stood.

Staff photo by David Leaming

On Monday and Tuesday, the Public Works Department cleared brush and about 100 small trees between the bridge and the former Kimberly-Clark mill to the north. The effort revealed a panoramic view of Ticonic Falls not visible from any other angle.

The view isn't completely unobstructed. A few trees along the bank could block the view when the leaves come out this spring, but environmental regulations such as shoreline protection and erosion control prevent further clearing by the town, Public Works Director Paul Fongemie said.

The main impetus for the clearing was to allow for better lighting and visibility at the intersection of Benton and Clinton avenues, Bay Street and the bridge, Fongemie said. Beautification is a bonus.

Five decades ago, the vacant property was home to three businesses -- a barber shop, a photo laboratory and a drugstore, said Jack Nivison, an amateur historian in Winslow. The drugstore was a hot spot for teenagers because it had a soda fountain.

"When the train rolled by, the whole building would shake," he recalled.

In the early 1970s, the buildings were demolished when the bridge was widened from two lanes to four, Nivison said. Over the years, the trees grew outward from the bank in a slow progression.

Town Manager Michael Heavener said he's not sure exactly how long the area had been overgrown, but said it has been more than a dozen years. A metal fence that has been revealed in the clearing is partly embedded in a mature tree.

Heavener said the clearing project is something that Fongemie has been interested in for several months.

"Paul sees the benefit to the community for cleaning spaces up and making them look appealing," he said.

The site will be mowed by city departments to keep the area clear from now on. There are no plans to turn the land into a park.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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