Riverfront Park adds Wi-Fi, webcam

10 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Looking for a place in downtown Houlton to quickly jump online to check emails or surf the web?
If so, then Houlton’s Riverfront Park is the place to be thanks to the efforts of the park’s committee, Vital Pathways and Pioneer Broadband. Free wireless Internet, more commonly known as Wi-Fi, and a new webcam overlooking the Gateway Crossing Bridge are now available for people to access.

Tim McAfee, chief operating officer for Pioneer Broadband, explained the webcam will be interactive in that anyone who donates money to the park through the group’s website will be able to control the camera’s panning, tilting and zoom features. The Riverfront Park committee paid for the equipment, while Pioneer Broadband is providing the Internet service.
“The Internet connection is fiber-optic based so it is a very fast connection,” McAfee explained. “We believe having Wi-Fi available will draw more people to the park during the day. Many tourists who visit have cell phone providers that are not local. So this will be a spot for those people to use their phones to access email or the web.”
A sign, donated by Larry McCarthy, will be erected in the park soon to make the public aware of the free Wi-Fi, McAfee said. Swallow Electric did the electrical work to bring Wi-Fi to the park.
The addition of Wi-Fi and a webcam is just the latest step in developing the park. Back in July, new picnic tables were added.
Future plans for the park include:
• Design and fundraising for public restrooms.
• An illuminated playground area, with equipment for children.
• Extended pavement area to the Rain Garden to control runoff and prevent erosion.
• Stabilize North Road and Key Bank “steep sloping banks” to prevent erosion.
In the late 1990s the Riverfront Park project was just a dream of a few select Houlton community members, but in 1999 the thought and dream took a major step forward. Former resident Walter “Buzz” Burlock came up with the idea of doing a community service project and chose his former hometown as the site. That project became the Gateway Crossing Bridge, which served as a focal point for Riverfront Park.
In 2013, Vital Pathways assisted in obtaining a bear statue created by sculptor Forest Hart for the park. That sculpture replaced a moose statue, created by Glen Hines, which previously graced the park for a number of years.
Vital Pathways has also created a rain garden along the trail to remediate water runoff and replaced several plants in the park.
A non-motorized walking trail is also located on the north side of the parking lot. The trail can be also accessed from the north side of the Highland Avenue Bridge following a wooden stairway. A mid-sized public parking lot is located in the Park next to the Meduxnekeag Bridge.
According to the group’s website, “the non-motorized trail is a wide, graveled path running parallel to Meduxnekeag River. Hikers can walk for a round trip, or use it as a one-way connector trail connecting Highland Avenue Bridge. The park has a large, sheltered picnic area. A statue of a bear, sculpted by Forest Hart, sits next to the parking lot, greeting visitors to the park.”
From the park, hikers can walk across the Meduxnekeag River via the Gateway Crossing Bridge, to Houlton’s historic downtown Market Square.
Inside the park and along the length of the trail are a number of installed, educational plaques that have graphic illustrations and narrative explanations of local history and local wildlife and plants. Pets are allowed but their wastes must be removed. The park provides dog waste bags without charge.
Vital Pathways is based in Houlton and serves 11 towns in Aroostook County. It’s board of 17 members meets twice a month and is assisted by a part-time coordinator and an AmeriCorps Vista member. Riverfront Park encompasses 1.69 acres of land owned by the town of Houlton and is assessed at $16,900 according to property tax maps.
For more information, visit www.houltonriverfront.com.