BATH — City Park’s “Spirit of the Sea” fountain is close to getting a new watery home.

The fountain itself, which features a sculpture by world-renowned artist William Zorach, has already gotten a face lift. Now the pond and environment surrounding it is soon to be reopened after a complete transformation over the past six months.

The renovation is the result of the hard work of the Friends of the Zorach Fountain, who have spearheaded efforts to restore both the sculpture and its surroundings. The organization hopes to have a grand opening celebration on June 25.

“Our hope is that by fairly early in June, the ground can be seeded and the plantings can be in place,” said Linda Wood, president of Friends of the Zorach Fountain. “I’m really excited about how it’s going so far.”

The sculpture that forms the centerpiece of the fountain, “Spirit of the Sea,” was created by William Zorach, a notable sculptor, painter, and printmaker whose work appears in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and more. Since restoration of the statue in the early 2000s, thanks in large part to the work of the late Margaret Bliss, Friends of the Zorach Fountain have been steadily working on improving the surrounding structures.

For years, some of the areas around the fountain have resembled swampland more than a cohesive setting for a work of art. Visitors during Bath’s Heritage Days celebrations, in particular, can likely recall their feet sinking into the ground in places due to poor drainage, especially if it rains.
“For us to have this wonderful sculpture in our town in a clogged-up kind of swampy area, it just was not right,” said Wood.

Thus, the impetus for the $425,000 project, which has relied on donors and grants. The enclosure was designed by landscape architect Bruce John Riddell, and work was performed by Jorgenson Landscaping. Both worked together in the past on water treatments at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.

“We didn’t want the pond to just have paving stones all around it, looking like a swimming pool edge or something like that,” said Wood. “It’s a really coherent whole, and I think it’s really framing the fountain. I think it’s a respectful tribute to the sculpture, I think it sets it off.”

In addition to the work on landscaping the area, the City of Bath is doing drainage work in the park. Bath Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni said the project is moving along on schedule, and that drainage work to address the swampy nature of the area is going to start soon. In addition, the pond will be sprayed with a material that holds in moisture more effectively, and the new bridge will get railings to prevent accidents.

“Buttoning it back up will probably happen in the next two to three weeks of re-sodding, reseeding, and trees and planting,” said Balboni. “We wanted it done before Heritage Days, and with plenty of time to have the grass set.”

Employees at the Patten Free Library have had a front-row view of the work on the pond, which has been ongoing throughout the winter. While the park is directly adjacent to the library, it is city property, not library property. That hasn’t stopped plenty of people from asking questions about the project, said Director Leslie Dolinger.

“From the perspective of being here every day, I’ve been seeing visitors taking pictures daily,” she said. “We’re excited.”

Andrea Terry, who works at the front desk, said she’s been impressed by the hard work Jorgenson Landscaping has been doing.

“I so admire them,” said Terry, who operates her own landscaping business. “Those folks worked through the worst weather, in the snow with salamander heaters, in the rain, everything.”

As the pond comes close to completion, Wood said the importance of the structure to the community has been put into focus.

“That sculpture and pond is important to so many in the community, big and little,” said Wood. She read an excerpt of an eight-year-old boy’s letter about the statue, which was accompanied by a 10-dollar-bill:

“Santa gave me money to share with my community, thank you for taking care of the statue and the pond.”

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