President’s Notes – For the Year 2019
2019 was another busy year for the VIA with our landmark project, DeGregoire Park, going from the planning and groundwork stages to installing its many unique features. With the VIA’s seed money of 50,000 plus the 200,000 raised from generous and foresighted individuals and businesses the new gateway park at the entrance of Bar Harbor on Eden Street was open to the public for the 4th of July. Users enjoyed the freshly lain sod, an iconic fountain and sculpture and memorial to the Fire of ’47. The last task was setting 8 curved granite benches around the fountain in October. In preparation for winter weather an enclosure was built for the fountain and put up in November.
(See gallery for many more construction photos the Park)
Constructing the park wasn’t without its problems. It was a terribly wet spring to complete the project which made the work more difficult and time consuming. This was one reason we laid sod rather than seeding even though it was more expensive as we were concerned the seed and soil would just wash away. The sod also made the park look nice and was useable immediately rather than waiting for seed to grow. Only days after the DeGregoire Park sign was installed it was flattened by a car involved in an accident. Due to high winds a tree fell on the new fence and bent it and an entire section of the fence was cut out by vandals. We’re still waiting for our permit from the State to allow for our features installed within their ROW which carries water under the road in a large culvert to the ocean.
I would like to thank all of our contractors for their patience, hard work and advice, especially Scott Blanchard from Sargent Corporation who did the initial grading, Scott Grindle and his crew from Grindle Landscaping, who refined the grading, laid the pavers, the sod, set the benches and much more. Tommy Dunn and crew donated their labor and materials to plumb in the fountain, Mike Mussetti and MMC Electric ran our electric lines and set our lights and Hammond Lumber and Freshwater Stone and Brick sold us our granite benches. The MDOT donated most of the plantings and MJ McIsaac and Paul Weathersby built the fountain winter cover. There’s a chance next winter it will be decorated for the holiday season.
Having spent much of the summer in the park designing, measuring, laying out, supervising, building, planting, watering, repairing and picking up I made many new friends and heard lots of positive comments about this new addition to our gateway. It was a truly rewarding experience to see visitors, neighbors and college students enjoying the park and its amenities even before it was completed. The lighting in the park on this corner is especially warm and welcoming in the evening year round. Thank you again to Joe Cough and Lance and Patricia Mahaney for putting their trust in the VIA to best utilize their land in order to create another pearl in the Bar Harbor park system. This is now the first and last thing people see when they enter and leave our lovely town.
New VIA Board of Directors recently elected include Steven Coston, David Witham Jr. and Helena Kasindorf. In 2019 we lost Les Brewer who passed away. Les was one of those once in a lifetime people who come along and quietly got things done on every front imaginable from his own businesses to too many volunteer organizations and boards to list. Les’s work ethic and solid advise will be greatly missed. He was a shining example of what one person can do for a community if they have the opportunity and the mind set to do so.
The final 20 Museum of the Streets panels were installed along with 5 new directories. A dedication for both the new park and Museum of the Streets was scheduled for Memorial day 2020 just before the memorial service on the Town pier, however, due to COVID19 the event will be held at a later date.
The VIA moved its office in 2019, along with the Historical Society, to La Rochelle at 127 West Street which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Congratulations to the Historical Society for purchasing, preserving and making this magnificent estate available to the public for generations to come. We have had a close working relationship with BHHS over the years and continue to support each other in our goals to make Bar Harbor a wonderful place to live.
Projects on the agenda for 2020 include 2 new granite benches on the shore path, possible improvements to the south end of the shore path and bridge and hopefully working with the Town to come up with a plan to make West Street more pedestrian friendly, aesthetically pleasing and the historic attraction it should be.
In summary, 2019 was a banner year for the BHVIA as we reaffirmed our identity, got back to our roots and lived up to our mission of quietly keeping Bar Harbor beautiful.
President’s Notes – 2018
2018 was an eventful year for the Bar Harbor VIA. Ground was broken in July on the corner of Eden Street and Harbor Lane for our new park called DeGregiore Green. When complete this park will have a fountain, a fire of ’47 memorial, 20 stone benches, lights, irrigation and lots of trees, shrubs and plantings. It is hoped things will be completed before the 4th of July. All of the in ground work was done in 2018 and the surface elements will be installed in the spring of 2019. All told over 180,000 has been raised to date. Most of that money came from selling honorary stone benches at 10,000.00 each.
This location for a park was made possible by the generous offers from Joe Cough and Lance Mahaney to use their land and we can’t thank them enough. This park will greatly enhance the entrance to Bar Harbor and be a wonderful resting spot for not only visitors staying in the 1000 guest rooms along Eden Street but also for the College of the Atlantic Students who walk or bike it on a daily basis. Donations can be made out to DeGregiore Park Fund and sent to Jonathan Nicholson at The First, 102 Main Street, Bar Harbor, Me. 04609. We also hope to set up and fund so the park can be properly maintained after completion.
This is not the first park built by the VIA in Bar Harbor either. That happened in 1901 when the VIA leased land from the Town and built the Village Green in the center of Town. DeGregiore Green will make a great “bookend” to West Street along with Agamont Park at the other end. Sometime in the near future it would be great to see some green space included in any plan for the old ferry terminal property.
20 more Museum in the Streets panels will be installed in the spring of 2019 to add to the 29 already in the Village Center. 10 of these panels will go out Eden Street as far as the Park Visitors Center, 7 will go down lower Maine Street onto Schooner Head Road and the final 3 will be along Cromwell Harbor Road finishing up at Kebo Valley Golf Course. Topics covered include many summer estates and residents, the auto wars, George B. Dorr and Waldron Bates.
We’re sorry to report our longest reigning board member, historian and keeper of the records, Phil Cunningham, passed away in November. His knowledge, directness and dedication will be greatly missed.
At some point in the near future, we hope to get back to work on the South end of the shore path off Wayman Lane and rebuild the seawall, remove the wooden bridge, increase the width of the path to 8 feet for better maintenance access and beautify the area in general. This will cost a minimum of 50,000.
We would like to congratulate the Bar Harbor Historical Society on the upcoming purchase of the Maine Seacoast Mission Headquarters on West Street, also known as La Rochelle. This is a tremendous feather in the cap for not only the Historical Society but also for the town and surrounding areas to have this stately manor preserved for future generations to walk through in admiration and awe of an era gone by. Also of major significance are the gardens designed by our own past VIA board member and well known landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. We should all work together to to help make sure this project and the Jesup Library expansion are both successful as of these type of endeavors and what they can offer set the course of Bar Harbor’s future.
2018 was an eventful year for the Bar Harbor VIA. In July ground was broken for our new park called DeGregiore Green on the corner of Eden Street and Harbor Lane. This was formally the site of the DeGregiore Hotel which burned to the ground in the Fire of ’47. When complete the park will have a fountain, a Fire of ’47 memorial, 20 stone benches, lights, irrigation and lots of trees, shrubs and plantings. We are hoping things will be completed before the 4thof July. All of the in ground work was done in 2018 and the surface elements will be installed in the spring of 2019. All told over $180,000 has been raised to date. Most of that money came from donations for honorary stone benches at $10,000.00 each, but we are grateful to every donor, no matter what the amount, because every dollar makes a difference.
The land for DeGregiore Green was made available because of the generosity of Joe Cough and Lance Mahaney and we can’t thank them enough. This park will greatly enhance the entrance to Bar Harbor and be a wonderful and safe resting spot for all and particularly visitors staying in the 1000 guest rooms along Eden Street and the College of the Atlantic Students who walk or bike by daily. Donations can be made out to DeGregiore Green Fund and sent to Jonathan Nicholson at The First, 102 Main Street, Bar Harbor, Me. 04609. If any funds are left over after completion they will be set aside for future maintenance.
Above is a photo taken in November showing the new park (the irrigation system is being installed) from the fountain site looking down Eden Street toward West Street.
This is not the first park built by the VIA in Bar Harbor either. That happened in 1901 when the VIA leased land from the Town and built the Village Green. DeGregiore Green will make a great “bookend” to West Street along with Agamont Park at the other end. Sometime in the near future it would be nice to see some green space set aside at the old ferry terminal property.
Museum In The Streets Update
20 more Museum in the Streets panels will be installed in the spring of 2019 to add to the 29 already in the Village Center. 10 of these panels will go out Eden Street as far as the Park Visitors Center, 7 will go down lower Maine Street onto Schooner Head Road and the final 3 will be along Cromwell Harbor Road finishing up at Kebo Valley Golf Course. Topics covered include many summer estates and residents, the auto wars, George B. Dorr, Waldron Bates The Jackson Laboratory and Acadia National Park. A ribbon cutting ceremony for both of the above projects will take place in DeGregiore Green sometime this summer.
Shore Path Updates
At some point in the near future, we hope to get back to work on the South end of the shore path off Wayman Lane and rebuild the seawall, remove the wooden bridge, increase the width of the path to 8 feet for better maintenance access and beautify the area in general. This will cost a minimum of 50,000. Work is also planned for upgrading the access path.
We would like to congratulate the Bar Harbor Historical Society on their upcoming purchase of the Maine Seacoast Mission Headquarters on West Street, also known as La Rochelle. This isn’t just a tremendous feather in the cap for the Historical Society but also for the surrounding communities who will have this stately manor preserved for their and future generations to walk through, admire and learn about this bygone era. Also of major significance are the gardens designed by our own past VIA board member and well known landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. We should all work together to help make sure this project and the Jesup Library expansion are both successful as these type of endeavors and what they offer set the course for Bar Harbor’s future.
Updates from previous years . . .
In the spring of 2018 the VIA determined the highest and best use of its 50,000.00 originally offered to the Town of Bar Harbor would in fact be to create a new park between Harbor Lane and West Street. We are in negotiations with the land owner to obtain a 99 year lease. This would really help dress up the entrance to our village. The lot has been vacant since the Fire of ’47. It could be called “DeGregoire Gardens” or “The Garden of Eden”. Granite benches in honor of Gladys O’Neil and Les Brewer will be included in this new park or Grant Park. We would greatly appreciate donations to help launch this project. Contributions can be made on our donation page.
The VIA offered to donate $50,000 to help make upgrades to the MDOT Route 3 multi-use path. It was originally thought the funds might be used as seed money for lighting and upgrading the path material (concrete in lieu of asphalt). It is now felt our funds would best be used improving these same elements between West Street and Harbor Lane, since this is as far as our money will stretch. This section is very important, aesthetically speaking, being the gateway to the village of Bar Harbor.
At our annual spring meeting a $5000 grant was approved for the Park Street Playground to help with their $195,000 renovation project. Grants we make, in accordance with our mission, must be used for general beautification, and in this case the funds were used for landscaping and fencing. Grant Park got a face lift and we helped by donating $30,000 to the project. It looks very nice.
It is with a heavy heart I report we lost one of our biggest supporters and lifetime VIA member David Witham who passed away in November. Our condolences to his family. We know his son David Jr. will carry on his good work.
A small portion of seawall washed out on the south end of the Shore Path in a spring storm. It was repaired but should be replaced by a new concrete seawall in the near future. It is one of the few remaining sections that is still stone and easily undermined. Replacing the seawall would also greatly help with access for maintenance and repairs. Now it’s almost impossible to service this end of the path. In the past, replacing a 100 foot section of seawall cost around $30,000.
From 2012 to 2016 the VIA spent $150,000 repairing and improving 1200 feet of the Shore Path. This work included resurfacing the gravel path and rebuilding seawalls. A new bench commemorating the donor of Glen Mary Park, Mary Shannon, was installed in the fall of 2014. Construction to widen a 1000 foot stretch of the Shore Path in front of the Bar Harbor Inn was completed in the fall of 2015 and resulted in a much wider and safer path. The VIA has pledged another $30,000 to improve the path in front of Grant Park which will be redone in coordination with the redevelopment of the Park possibly in the fall of 2017.
In 2017 more cutting back of growth and widening of the Shore Path was completed. For the first time in decades the entire length of the path is now a minimum of 6 feet wide which makes it much safer and more enjoyable to walk.
Jeff Dobbs and Bing Miller produced a 7 minute video depicting the history of the VIA since its inception in 1881. This will be a nice asset to have for our archives and general promotion.
In 2016 we updated our website, added a photo gallery and produced a 60 second ad promoting the VIA and celebrating 135 years of service to the community. This ad aired on the Acadia Chanel throughout the season. A heartfelt thank you goes out to Dobbs Productions for their generosity in producing this ad at no cost to us. Five 3 by 2 foot black and white framed posters were produced depicting the VIA’s 135 year history.
In June we replaced the 4 Shore Path signs, the Village Burial Grounds sign and added first time signage in Glen Mary Park and Woodbury Park. The new signs are weather resistant, 75% smaller than the old signs and require only a single post rather than two.
The VIA is responsible for the Town Clock next to the Village Green, and we recently had it restored, cleaned and repainted. We also maintain a fund to keep the two town fountains (on the Village Green and in Agamont Park) in working order. In 2013 we helped with the funding to refurbish the Veterans Memorial on the Village Green. We added a new 13′ by 2′ by 6″ pink granite cap in the fall of 2015 which was donated by Jeff Gammelin of Freshwater Stone and Brick Work.