Martha Dickinson (standing at left in photo on right)speaks at a Jan. 12 public forum at Ellsworth City Hall. She said the city must wean itself off of fossil fuels. She said solar should be looked at as an option. PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

Residents fill City Hall to share ideas for green plan

ELLSWORTH — It may not be easy being green, as a famous frog once sang, but in Hancock County it turns out it’s easy to get people to talk green.

A crowd of about 50 people filled the upstairs auditorium at Ellsworth City Hall on Jan. 12 for a public forum on a proposed green plan for Ellsworth. The event was sponsored by the Ellsworth Garden Club in partnership with the city.

The garden club has done green plans in the past, one in the 1950s and the other in the 1980s, but both those were focused on particular physical green spaces. This green plan is designed to look “beyond green spaces” and factor in other green concepts as well, including recycling, energy efficiency, water management and more.

Green spaces are still important, though, as the city has added a number of them since the last green plan was done (think here of S.K. Whiting Park and the Knowlton Community Park). The plan also would look at those spaces and address issues such as who is responsible for taking care of them and making sure people know where the parks are and how to utilize them.

Ellsworth Garden Club member Mary Blackstone (standing, at left) led the discussion at a Jan. 12 public forum at Ellsworth City Hall designed to solicit input on a proposed green plan for the city.

The audience on Jan. 12 was a mix of ages (teenagers to senior citizens) and backgrounds (students, business owners, retirees and other community members), and many of them brought ideas with them on what should be included in a green plan.

Martha Dickinson said the city should follow Belfast’s lead and look at installing solar panels on some of its buildings.

Reeser Manley, a horticultural scientist, said he wanted to “look to the needs of biodiversity in the community.” He said when gardening work is being done, native trees and plants should be used, as they would do better and also support native wildlife and insects.

Todd Little-Siebold, a Bayside Road resident and professor at the College of the Atlantic, referred to the visioning process completed last year. He said people who took part in that process expressed a strong interest in seeing Ellsworth turn back to the Union River, “rather than ‘Oh, the river just happens to be there,’ rather than having High Street be the experience that most people have of the town.”

Nate Hanson, owner of Pinniped Kayak, LLC, echoed what Little-Siebold said. He said the Union River could help draw people to town instead of simply serving “as a property line.” He listed businesses on Water Street that are along the river but that do not use or utilize it.

“There are all these spaces that have a prize asset behind them that you would never know about and that we are not getting any value out of,” Hanson said.

He said with work, people could actually “change the experience of what Water Street feels like” and make it more part of the downtown.

Other speakers talked about accessibility, making sure that the city’s various green spaces can be accessed by people whether they are driving, biking or on foot. Jack Frost said it would be great if the city could connect more places in Ellsworth to the rail trail, which he said is a great resource.

Other speakers talked about having good signage in place to direct visitors from near and far to the various parks. How, for example, would anyone coming into town on the Bucksport Road for the first time know that Knowlton Park is just a short drive up on State Street from the lower traffic light? Or that Harbor Park on Water Street is a great place for a picnic lunch?

Another idea that proved popular was floated by Cara Romano, executive director of the Heart of Ellsworth organization. She said there has been talk of someday shutting down the section of Franklin Street between Main Street and Store Street (the part that runs between the former Grasshopper Shop and J&B Atlantic) and turning that into green space.

Such an idea could not advance until the city’s public safety agencies are relocated — police cruisers and fire trucks use that section of street to get out onto Main Street right now — but those in attendance liked it.

Garden Club member Mary Blackstone led the discussion at the Jan. 12 meeting, and both she and fellow club member Judy McGeorge said the turnout for the event was encouraging.

Additional input can be submitted by emailing Blackstone at [email protected] or by calling 667-8878. Input needs to be provided by Feb. 8. The next steps in the green plan process will be announced at a later date.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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