2014-09-26 / Front Page

Board receives updated grist mill plan

Application is for construction of educational center and reconstruction of the mill
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — After a year of reconfigurations, the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust presented its application for the construction of the River Heritage Educational Center, along with the reconstruction of the Perkins Grist Mill, to the planning board last Wednesday.

The Perkins Grist Mill was built by Tristram Perkins in 1749, and functioned as a grist mill until the early 20th century, even when many grist mills were being used as lumber mills.

In 1976 the mill was added to the Register of National Historic Sites. The facility was turned into a restaurant in the 1940s and burned down in 1994. The trust acquired the property in 2006.

The trust, said Executive Director Tom Bradbury at Wednesday’s meeting, is “dedicated to managing properties that reflect a natural and cultural heritage of Kennebunkport. That is our mission and that is what the River Heritage Center is all about.”

Other properties and facilities maintained by the trust include Ganny’s Garden, Emmons Preserve, Edwin L. Smith Preserve, seven beachfront lots on Goose Rocks Beach, a handful of islands in Cape Porpoise Harbor and the Goat Island Lighthouse.

“When buildings are involved, we believe in taking them to the most significant period in their history (i.e. 1950s for Goat Island Lighthouse). We firmly believe that making the grist mill property the best and most historically attractive it can be would be rebuilding the old Perkins Grist Mill,” Bradbury told the board.

The focus would be on educating children and the public on the town’s ties to the Kennebunk River, as well as the examination of the river from a scientific perspective.

“Its location and history lends itself to tying in other parts of our heritage ... there’s no question that it was a local landmark, and it could be again,” Bradbury said.

If built, the grist mill would be the only functioning tidal mill in North America, Bradbury said. “That fact alone is amazing. Combine it with a river whose heritage is rich with shipbuilding, sailing, fishing, recreation and a Native American presence dating back thousands of years, and we have the basis for a river heritage educational center that would become a featured part of Trust In Our Children, future lifelong learning functions, and that would be a source of great pride for the community.”

The proposed scope of the project is approximately 20 percent smaller than what was proposed last June.

The proposal would include the grist mill and the educational center, as well as a 13-car parking lot. Representatives at the meeting said they have reduced the project as much as theyt can and still have a functional tidal grist mill.

If the project is approved, the trust will use its collection of photos as a guide when the facility is built and use the same type of lumber and antique tools to ensure the replica is truly authentic.

Chairman David Kling said, “It might be instructive to learn as to whether the board and the applicant can demonstrate whether this is consistent with our town comprehensive plan.”

Neither he, nor other members of the planning board, were critical of the project, and board voted unanimously to approve the application and move the matter to a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15.

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