HISTORY OF THE PROJECT

Great Falls Park: A Long Time Coming!

 
 
 

Loving riverbanks is a timeless phenomenon. Over the years in Berwick, this site has been home to a saw mill, pedestrian bridge, fishing grounds, otter habitat—and perhaps, due to its namesake, was once part of the epic spawning journey of the Atlantic Salmon. 

LANDSCAPE HISTORY

The Great Falls Park riverbank is a dynamic woodland landscape of wildflowers, native and non-native perennials, large boulders, scenic overlooks, maple trees, and rocky river frontage. 

In the 1800's, a sawmill sat at the base of the southernmost side of the site, nearly at water level. A foundation of large rectangular stones is still visible. During this time, there was also a pedestrian bridge that crossed into the mill complex in Somersworth. The bridge allowed workers a faster walk to and from work.

Unfortunately before waste management became a priority for the region, the riverbank (along with many riverbanks in New England) became a popular spot for dumping waste and rubbish. A pile of extra asphalt and other remnants of this era can be seen on the land. Invasive species took advantage of the minimally-managed land, and bittersweet vines and other non-native species have thrived. Despite the bits of litter and thickets of thorny non-native shrubs, people have continued to use the site over time for its access to the powerful falls between Berwick and Somersworth. 

 

COULD THIS BE... A PARK?

In 1992, Kim Myers created a concept plan for a park at the site for a Masters project. In 2013, Serena, a Great Falls Park Committee member and native Berwickian who grew up playing by the river, brought tour groups to view the site during the Envision Berwick Design Charrette. 

After the charrette, the site was identified as a site of interest by Envision Berwick. In 2015 the committee discovered the parcel belonged to PSNH and sought to purchase the unused land. An agreement went through in 2016 and the parcel was purchased. 

MODERN HISTORY & FUTURE USE

In 2017, the Great Falls Park Committee gathered to do site walks, identify native and non-native species with ecology experts, brainstorm ideas for the park, and create volunteer work days. Read more about 2017 events here. 

In 2018, we'll be working towards Phase One of the project: designing and DIY-installing the pocket parks. Read more about the vision here, and click below to get involved with 2018 projects!

 

Former pedestrian bridge: the southernmost plateau was the site of the former pedestrian bridge. Click here to learn more about reinstalling the pedestrian bridge at the site to connect the Berwick and Somersworth waterfronts.