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The site plan for Big Island Park. (Graphic courtesy of Bolton & Menk)

The Big Island Project was moved to its next stages as Orono City Council agreed to complete a survey and design work for Big Island Park.

The Big Island Committee was established in 2017 to develop a plan to improve the park and the master plan was approved in 2018. Since then, the city received a grant for an archeological survey and in 2019 the city was approved for a DNR grant in the amount of $200,000.

According to the city, the project will improve accessible pathway, improve the overlook/pavilion area, add interpretive signage and restroom facilities. The scope of the project is estimated to cost $404,250. Up to 50 percent of the funding could be provided by the grant. The remaining balance would be paid from the Parks Enterprise fund or from other donor sources.

“The Parks Commission is working with a donor group to secure part of the match funding with a goal of confirming any outside funding by this fall,” city documents state.

Construction for the park is expected to begin sometime between June and September 2020. Bolten & Menk were approved by the city to survey the area and create a finalized design.

Elements the company is looking at include adding picnic tables to the overlook as well as creating a shade structure and sitting stones. Security cameras and informational signs are also being considered for improvements to the dock area.

The community has shown support for improving the park and came together last year to repair and repaint a cabin on Big Island. The intent for the restoration is to transform the cabin into a visitors’ center.

Council member Victoria Seals has been lead on the Big Island initiative and a member of the Big Island Committee, a group created to guide the future improvements to the island.

Now that the building was refreshed by community members, Home Depot volunteers and Public Works, the parks commission worked to collect historical information to include in the visitors center and to post on markers around the island, according to Seals.

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