2014-06-27 / Front Page

Town in discussions about future of Silas Perkins Park

Land near Green Street was a gift from Perkins family
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — The town is reopening plans to develop Silas Perkins Park, to be located on Ocean Avenue near the intersection of Green Street.

Silas Perkins, a longtime early 20thcentury resident of Kennebunkport, was a businessman and poet, said Kennebunkport Town Manager Laurie Smith. The parcel of land was gifted to the town from Perkins’ family.

The town began planning the park in 2013, but the project was halted due to various issues raised by members of the planning board, Smith said at the June 12 board of selectmen meeting.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet with town staff at this point, to understand better the design and use of the park. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with the heirs of Silas Perkins who donated the land to us and heard their thoughts about the park and its future,” Smith told the board at the Thursday meeting.

Perkins appreciated the simple things in life, was passionate about people and was devoted to his family.

One of Perkins’ poems, “The Common Road,” encapsulates his passion for simple pleasures:

I want to travel the common road with the great crowd surging by, where there’s many a laugh and many a load, and many a smile and sigh.

I want to be on the common way with its endless tramping feet, in the summer bright and winter gray, in the noonday sun and heat.

In the cool of the evening with shadows nigh, at the dawn, when the sun breaks clear, I want the great crowd passing by, to ken what they see and hear.

Said Smith, “Certainly what the family wanted to see was that the memory and character of Silas Perkins really be honored and reflected through the park. They certainly wanted to see it be an area where families could go recreate, where dogs would be welcomed, that it would be a respite in the downtown area and that access to the river would continue, and aesthetically pleasing so that would make it feel like a respite area for people.”

Architect Regina Leonard told the board that one goal of the park’s design was to increase its visibility from the road. “The other goal was to provide universal access into the park by way of a sidewalk that met ADA requirements, and then to provide passive recreation opportunities (picnic areas, new seating, etc.),” Leonard said.

“The goal is to reorganize some site plantings, to enhance the amount of native plant material that is on site, and decrease maintenance and areas of mowing,” Leonard said. Planning for the park is still very much in the early phases.

“At this point we’re hoping to gather input and work with Regina to talk about what makes sense for a design based on what we heard tonight and then we will come back at a future date,” Smith said.

Michael Tarabilda, who lives down the street from the proposed site for the park, told the board, “What I’m seeing in this design is a sort of mini Barbara Bush park (Ganny’s Garden) that already has benches, that already has flowers, it’s well looked after.

“My concern is that gradually the neighborhood that we’re part of is becoming more and more refined in the sense that it’s becoming more and more managed and designed to the extent that if you’ve lived there for 40 years as we have, it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.”

“We’re getting more and more events that the (Village) Green is being used for. This park I see as another contribution to this gentrification in an unattractive sense, of the whole area. And it’s something we can’t do much about,” Tarabilda said. “I don’t see it contributing to the neighborhood spirit of that particular neighborhood. It’s a good neighborhood right now.”

Judging from Perkins’ writing, he would likely see the desire to construct a park and the desire to leave the space untouched, as both appealing choices in their own right.

“The Common Man” continues:

By the great crowd day by day; to glimpse the restful valleys deep, to toil up the rugged hill, to see the brooks which shyly creep ... I want to live and work and plan with the great crowd surging by, to mingle with the common man, no better or worse than I.

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