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Kennebunk is located in southern Maine in York County. It is the fifth largest community of 29 in the county. Kennebunk is situated on a coastal plain that rises gradually from east to west, continuing through Sanford to Springvale, Maine, where the land form finally gives way to hills shaped by ledge. This coastal plain is drained by three streams -- the Kennebunk River, Mousam River, and Branch Brook2. The Kennebunk River and Branch Brook define Kennebunk's corporate boundries.
Elevations rise gradually from less than twenty feet above sea level near the coast to a few isolated high points at elevation 240. Beaches, wetlands, various freshwater brooks and ponds, woodlands, and large tracts of farm land can all be found within the confines of Kennebunk's boundaries.
The 1990 federal census gave Kennebunk's population as 8,004 and estimated the number of its households as 3,161. Current (2018) estimates put the town's population at about 3,639 in approximately 4.000 households. Kennebunk's population is predominantly middle-aged. Thirty-seven percent of its residents are between thirty-five and sixty-fours years of age. In part this is due to in-migration of equity-rich "empty nesters" (forty-five to sixty-four years old) seeking a coastal Maine setting.
Kennebunk is within easy commuting distance of adjacent industrial communities (Sanford and Biddeford), as well as such economic centers as Portland, Maine; Portsmouth, N. H.; and metropolitan Boston, Mass. Kennebunk, whose labor force in 1990 was 4,134, is itself a small job center. However, various industries, such as Corning Costar, Hague International, Shape Inc., William Arthur, CNC Systems, and Tom's of Maine are located in Kennebunk. Tourism plays a large part in Kennebunk's economy.
The town owns three coastal beaches, as follows:
Gooch's Beach (5 acres, 3,346 feet long, sand beach); Middle Beach (1,200 feet long, rock beach); Kennebunk Beach (700 feet long, sand beach); Parsons Beach, a privately owned 2,440-foot, sand beach, is made available for public use.
Although parking stickers are required at all of Kennebunk's public beaches, no access fees are charged.
In addition to recreational opportunities provided by its beaches, rivers, ponds, and woods, Kennebunk maintains the following public parks and playgrounds:
Lower Village Park (2.84 acres, softball, basketball, playground equipment, ice skating); West Kennebunk Park (5.5 acres, baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, playground, shelter building); Parsons Field (5 acres, Little League field, softball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, youth center building); Lloyd G. Nedeau Memorial Park (9.13 acres, baseball, playground equipment, open fields); Harbor Playground (play structures with a marine theme); Rogers Pond Park (3 acres, ice skating, picnic tables and grills); Lafayette Park (1 acre, picnic table, bench); Wiggins Pond Nature Park (11 acres, nature trail, ice skating area); Wonderbrook Park (45 acres, trails but essentially undeveloped); Kennebunk High School complex (football field, softball, baseball, track, tennis); Bridle Path (old railroad bed used for walking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road vehicle riding); Lord's Point Playground (small playground at Kennebunk Beach); Rotary Park (small green with gazebo, benches. Used for summer concerts); Route 1 Rest Area: (Picnic and restroom facility for use by travelers).
State's coast is dotted with forts
You don't have to be a military buff or a hard-core fort fan to enjoy the many historic fortifications dotting Maine's rugged coastline. Maine forts, many restored and open to the public, are a perfect end-of-the-summer retreat for families and other visitors looking for an interesting place to explore and enjoy a picnic. Forts are deeply rooted in Maine history. From Kittery to Eastport, outposts and fortifications sprouted for nearly two centuries along the coastline, on islands and at strategic points along its rivers. Built to protect and defend, few were ever fired upon. Today, nearly three dozen forts or fort sites continue to stand guard, capturing a bit of Maine's history in their granite walls and gun batteries. Many of them are in their original condition. Some stand as engineering marvels of their day. The state Bureau of Parks and Recreation manages nine forts. Other forts or fort sites are either run by local municipalities or privately owned.
During the 19th century, as many as 120 covered bridges spanned various rivers and streams in Maine. Over the years, most of them have been lost to fires, floods, ice and forces of progress. Only nine remain today and they are maintained by the Maine Department of Transportation.
City parks full of treasures
Greater Portland residents, as well as people from away, frequently overlook the local wonders of the Portland park system. Although the entire system comprises over 900 acres, the following suggested tour of several of Portland's historic parks can be covered in less than two hours and only eight miles of driving. This self-guided tour was created Charles Houghton, a member of the The Friends of the Parks Commission. All of the parks have parking in them or nearby, and all are open free of charge.
Deering Oaks - The tour begins at Portland's best known park. Deering Oaks, a 51-acre park located at Forest and Deering Avenue, is just a short distance from Exit 6 off Interstate 295. Free parking and public restrooms are available next to the Castle building. The city acquired the land for this park in 1879 and the original design was created by William Goodwin, the city engineer. The centerpiece of the park is the duck pond well inhabited by seagulls, wild ducks and domesticated geese. Peddle boats are available for rental, and the new Barking Squirrel Restaurant located in the old Castle building is available for snacks and full meals. In 1689 this park was Brackett's orchard and the site of one of the fiercest battles in the French and Indian wars. In an intense six-hour battle, Major Benjamin Church defeated more than 700 Indians. The following spring, the Indians returned under the leadership of Baron Castine and annihilated the community of Falmouth Neck, as Portland was then named.
Enjoy the stroll between the high canopy of oaks, pines, spruce and other ornamental trees. Many of the oaks are 200 years old. Don't miss the award-winning rose garden located in the section adjacent to Forest Avenue. Bowling Green Road along the Park Avenue side of the park is now being rebuilt as a pedestrian walkway. The temporary concrete barriers will be removed and replaced by bollards used as entrance gates.
Western Promenade - The next stop is Western Promenade. Drive east on State Street to the Longfellow statue just past Congress Street. Take an immediate right on Pine Street and follow it to the end at Western Prom. Take a right and then make a U-turn into the parking area. Enjoy the short walking trail along the edge of the Promenade with views of the stately homes and South Portland. On a clear day you can see Mount Washington in New Hampshire, over 60 miles away just to the left of the Maine Medical Center. Consider that Portland acquired portions of the Eastern and Western Promenades between 1828 and 1837 specifically for ''the general public enjoyment.'' This was a remarkable achievement for the city and it was accomplished decades before New York City began planning Central Park and the Federal Government implemented its national parks program.
Fort Allen and Eastern Promenade - Leaving Western Prom, note Western Cemetery on the left, one of Portland's historic burial grounds. Take a left on Danforth Street and follow it to Center Street where you take a right, then a left on Commercial Street. Follow Commercial Street past well preserved mid-19th-century buildings to the end, where you will turn left at India Street. Take an immediate right at Fore Street and drive to the top of the hill with Fort Allen Park on the right. Park near the bandstand and enjoy the spectacular view of Casco Bay and its many islands. Various historic markers will tell you more about the sights. Note Fort Gorges in the center of the Bay. This historic fort was commissioned by Jefferson Davis, when he was Secretary of War, before he became president of the Confederacy.
The paved walking trail will lead you along the shore line and into Eastern Promenade. The original plans for this park were developed by the nationally known Olmstead Brothers in 1904, but portions of the park date back to 1824. This is a park for quiet contemplation of the surrounding bay and coastline. The walking trail also leads to the community gardens and East End Beach, Portland's only oceanfront beach. You will also see a working narrow gauge railway at the base of the cliffs.
Post Office Park and Tommy's Park - Leaving the Prom, head west to the monument on the right, where you will take a left onto the beginning of Congress Street, Portland's longest street. Note the old Portland Observatory built in 1807 on the left. Continue on Congress past Eastern Cemetery, Portland's oldest, until you reach Pearl Street, where you will turn left. After several short blocks, turn right on Middle Street until you reach two small parks on the right. The first is Post Office Park, Portland's newest, dedicated in 1993 with inspiration from Portland's sister city in Japan. This park is on the site of Portland's first post office and was built with the held of significant private donations. The boulder display represents the major islands in Casco Bay. The adjacent park across the street is Tommy's Park and features a magnificent trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) mural.
Turning right on Temple Street will take you back to Congress Street where you will take a left and then drive to either Forest Avenue of High Street. Take a right on either and you will find your way back to Deering Oaks. Don't worry about getting lost since most of your travels will be on the Portland peninsula, that is only 2 1/2 miles long by 1 mile wide and is mostly surrounded by water.
If the foregoing has whetted your appetite for parks, here are a few more to visit:
- Capisic Pond Park is another nature preserve off Capisic Street situated on an 18 acre track with a walking trail and Portland's largest freshwater pond.
- Evergreen Cemetery, also on Stevens Avenue, is one of the country's great urban cemeteries and very popular with walkers.
- Payson Park, a 48-acre all purpose recreational park is situated between Baxter Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. The Longfellow Arboretum is located within Payson Park.
- Back Cove features a circular 3 1/2-mile walking trail and is located along Baxter Boulevard.
Autumn in Maine brings golden light, crisp days and forests ablaze with scarlet and orange. Locals say it's the best time of the year. The peak of the fall foliage season lasts about three weeks. Beginning in the northwestern wilderness at the end of September, the color spreads eastward during early October. Central and southern Maine tend to peak during mid- to late-October. Fall visitors -- referred to as "leaf peepers" -- often come just for the scenery.
Miles of country backroads meander over colorful mountain passes, into sparkling lake country or along the rocky shoreline. But bends in the road offer many surprises to round out the excursion: fall fairs, apple orchards, antique shops and wildlife make foliage season one of the most desirable times to visit Maine. Each region of Maine has its own autumnal flavor and color palette.
The rolling farm country of Aroostook County is an open patchwork of field and foliage. In the dense forests around the Moosehead region, red maples and yellow birch leaves stand out in bright contrast. The clear lakes and ponds in Kennebec County are ringed with color and the rolling hills and mountains of the Western Lakes district offer breathtaking vistas. The entire coastline -- stretching southward from Sunrise County to the South Coastal region -- offers magnificent seaside foliage as the color washes down from Canada.
While the full bustle of summer is receding, most shops, restaurants, museums, and inns remain open, and many offer special prices and packages for autumn travelers. Be sure to check with local chambers of commerce before you plan your trip.
Popular driving loops throughout the state offer spectacular scenery and cultural attractions. Expect to see lots of farm stands along the roadside. Autumn is also apple harvest time. Nearly 1,000 varieties of apples are grown in Maine, though McIntosh are the most famous.