ELLSWORTH — A 10-year plan to greenify Ellsworth across its infrastructure, water use, land planning and local food and farming has been underway since January of 2017. Now the community group behind it, Green Ellsworth, has released a draft of its Green Plan and set Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. for the first of six public forums to discuss the plan’s recommendations and receive community feedback.
“[The Green Plan’s] goal is to create an action plan that will enable Ellsworth to become a model green community,” reads a press release announcing the draft Plan. The draft can be downloaded or viewed online at www.greenellsworth.org/ellsworth-green-plan.
If even some of the main recommendations are adopted by the city, Ellsworth would be a city of green spaces, linking trails, “green” corridors, sustainable drinking water and a working waterfront for tourism and recreation by 2031. The plan also would require more city staff to implement, maintain and regulate many of its recommendations.
The plan tackles four major categories: land, water, food and farming and infrastructure.
For land use, “significant changes in the city’s approach” are recommended, to allow for more green spaces, parks and trees. Specific recommendations include conserving half of Ellsworth’s total land area by 2031 from subdivision and development, establishing a land conservation fund and creating a rural forestry plan.
The plan also envisions a working waterfront with a focus on tourism and recreation.
“Ellsworth’s waterfront does indeed remain a working waterfront, but none of the businesses currently along Water Street actually make use of the river,” the plan reads. It recommends revising the 2002 Waterfront Plan and then implementing the updated plan in phases. Water Street would be rezoned as a first step, “something that would cost nothing but would ensure that any future development would be in line with the changes envisioned in the plan.”
Addressing Union River shoreline erosion, sea level rise and silting would be part of a comprehensive Waterfront Plan, with the recommendation of focusing on sea level rise first.
Also recommended is a “community rebranding effort to reposition the Union River as central to the public identity and profile of the city” and to seek official designation of the downtown riverfront as a historic district. And, a river path along Water Street that the plan notes has been a part of “visioning” projects and plans for the past 20 years is also included as a recommendation.
A wide focus on Branch Lake includes continued water quality testing, paving nearby public roads, new or improved stream crossings, repairing the dam and “the introduction of improved ordinances; better enforcement; incentives and rewards for best practices; and education and training to mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff, inadequate plumbing, and the current rate and intensity of development on Branch Lake.”
The plan acknowledges that its recommendations call for increased staffing to address water quality and related issues: “New regulations will need to be matched by the capacity to enforce both new and pre-existing codes.”
The plan also calls for a formal management strategy for its green spaces and hiring a director of parks and recreation to oversee it, noting that Ellsworth is one of only three cities of its approximate population without a parks and recreation department.
Establishing a nonprofit 501(c)(3) parks organization would “support the care, acquisition, and long-range planning of city parks and conserved areas by the city and local nonprofits.”
For food and farming, the plan focuses on conserving existing farmland, municipal support for farmers and farming, a presentation to the City Council and appointing a sustainability director for the city.
With Ellsworth’s Comprehensive Plan last updated in 2004, Green Ellsworth recommends revising it to include the recommendations of the Green Plan.
Over 2,000 citizens contributed to the draft plan, according to Green Ellsworth, which aims for an “increasingly sustainable community.” The plan also outlines the roles nonprofits, business owners, residents and volunteers can take to meet the plan goals.