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Discover the Bangor Ice Garden

03/30/2015
Bangor Ice Garden, March, 2015

Bangor Ice Garden, March, 2015

You can finally hear winter melt in Maine and I like to listen to the wonderful sound of seasonal change in a special place along the Kenduskeag Stream.

It’s a place I call the Bangor Ice Garden.

While hundreds of cars drive by the ice garden every day on the 14th Street/Valley Avenue downtown short cut, none stop. A whole neighborhood sits directly above it, and again, I doubt if this generates but a handful of admirers.

That’s a shame. People are missing a magical place.

The Bangor Ice Garden is a work of art created by Mother Nature. Each November, she pushes spring water out the cracks of jagged, grey rock walls some 30-feet high. She blasts the water with freezing winds at night and melts it with sunshine in the afternoon. The windy brush strokes and gentle dabs of sun are repeated daily through December and by January we usually have a masterpiece.

Ice clings to the rock and looks like a frozen waterfall higher than a house. Visitors are surrounded by the silence as the crystal-coated rock seems to absorbs sound. In the early spring, the place comes to life as ice melts and trickling water rings out like tiny church bells on Easter morning.

It’s a beautiful sight but tough to see. Crossing a busy Valley Avenue, trudging through knee-deep snow and scrambling between scrub trees, is suited more for deer than people.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The last leg of the Kenduskeag Stream below the Griffin Road bridge to downtown Bangor is an amazing public resource. Mill ruins, Lover’s Leap rock, raging rapids even the location of an old covered bridge. Officials recognized  the area benefits years ago and created a foot path, parking and a few amenities like a picnic shelter and signage.

But these improvements don’t meet the safety, convenience and quality standards we have today.

It’s time for new investment.

Trail improvements last summer between downtown and the old covered bridge location were a step in the right direction but short of matching the potential. The city needs to find funding to redevelop the area. Mainers love the outdoors and more young families, seniors, and the health conscious expect easy access, safe and engaging parks.

The Bangor City Council recently passed a resolution supporting a new national park in the Kahtadin region. What about their own back yard?

Bangor Daily News photograph Brian Feulner recently documented the Ice Gardens at night and called for a Valley Road improvement plan. Here are some of my ideas:

– Create a Bangor Ice Garden cove. Cut down scrub trees, build a brick plaza, install lighting and a decorative wrought iron fence and security gate.

– A continuous paved trial wide enough for bikers and walkers connecting the Valley Avenue/Harlow Street bridge over the Kenduskeag stream to Ohio Street. Another paved trail could be built over the existing riverside foot path from the bridge to the park space above I-95.

–  A three-way stop at 14th Street/Valley Ave. and Kenduskeag Road would slow thru traffic, create a safe cross walk and eliminate a dangerous intersection.

– Improve and establish a continuous and lighted trail link, utilizing the existing footbridge, between Franklin Street and the Valley Avenue/Harlow Street bridge over the Kenduskeag stream.

I have all kinds of other wild ideas for the area involving new covered bridges, Stephen King tributes and riverside micro-brew pubs but that’s for another pot of money.

In the meantime, I’ll just head down to the Bangor Ice Garden and listen to the arrival of spring – the season of hope and new life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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