The recent opening of Head of Tide Park is the culmination of a 12-year process to enhance the beauty, acquire land, and create a recreation area unique to Topsham. The work of the town and community organizations resulted in the town’s newest summer attraction.

“It really was a community effort,” said Parks and Recreation Director Pam Leduc. “It’s amazing when you look back at what it was and then now the finished product.”

The 12-acre park has a history of bustling activity, with a saw mill and then feldspar mill once standing on the land. Neglected apartment buildings made way for serenity and the gentle splash of a waterfall at the park.
Its history, however, is still a part of the landscape, as anyone passing by on Cathance Road can see the unmistakable ball mill.

While exploring the trails and nature of the park, signs have been installed to further pay tribute to the land, dating back to the tribes of the Abenakis. Leduc is most excited for residents and visitors in Topsham to have a place to connect with the river.

“It’s a nice quiet place to go for a picnic or kayaking,” said Leduc. “The Cathance itself is very mysterious.”

Runners will also enjoy what the new community get-away has to offer. The park has a trailhead that connects to more than seven miles of trails.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is hosting a trail running series that will highlight the park’s trails, starting with one at 5:15 p.m. July 12. The group plans to hold similar events on the second Thursday of each month through September and will announce future locations.

“I know a lot of people will run and use the trails,” said Leduc. “There’s a lot there if you have some experience with running trails.”

Topsham’s first waterfront park provides residents with hand-carry boat access both up and downstream of the falls. For those who prefer to just enjoy nature and take a break, there’s plenty of room for that as well with picnic areas and open spaces. One covered picnic area sits just above the falls.

“One thing we’re hoping is that people realize how many species of wildlife there is in the park,” said Leduc. “There’s a good chance any day you may spot a bald eagle.”

The process of creating the park began in 2006 when Elizabeth Kelso willed a one-third interest in her property to the Cathance River Education Alliance. From that, the organization was inspired to protect the remaining land on the property, purchasing it in 2009 with the help of Topsham Development Inc.

Also lending a hand was Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, which assisted in raising funds to acquire and protect the remaining land, and the town of Topsham was active in acquiring additional properties. In all, 8.5 acres of land was secured to combine with the Kelso property to account for the park’s total footprint.

While countless hours of work went into securing the land and funding for the vision, Leduc said the unsung heroes are in the town’s public works department.

“One group that hasn’t received enough credit is our public works staff,” she said. “The park has been there, people have been using it. They haven’t been recognized for the physical work that it’s taken.”