What’s going on with downtown Berwick, Maine anyway?

IMG_6908If you live in Berwick, Maine, it is very likely that you have heard of the grants the Town has recently secured to start the cleanup of the former Prime Tanning site. Wondering what is going on down there?

Recently the Workforce Housing Coalition of the Greater Seacoast hosted a 2 day charette in Berwick. “The Charrette is meant to envision what workforce housing opportunities there may be in those communities. Community members, property owners, and an all-volunteer design team comprised of housing professionals will work together to create a vision for what workforce housing could be developed.”

IMG_1997

As a member of the Charette Planning Committee and the Design Team, I was able to work directly with the designers, engineers and architects who were envisioning what downtown Berwick could be. This project was much different from most as we were working with an almost blank slate and envisioning an entire downtown. On Day 1 of the Charette, we hosted a site walk of the Prime Tanning and Estabrook School properties and then invited the public to identify what the Town needs. Here is what we came up with. (Thank you to our scribe, Ron McCallister for these notes.)

What would you LIKE to see? Restaurant/brewpub, senior housing, community center, small businesses, access to river, gathering places, small homes, parking, retail stores, small grocery, public transportation, repurposing, sustainability, new Main Street with amenities, walkability, character, rural atmosphere, sense of community, playground, community college, nightlife, character, old world charm, residential over commercial uses, community garden, outdoor film fest, movie theatre, affordable housing for all, open space, skate park/rink, trails, space for non-profits, shops and green space, safe bike paths, links to sites, connectivity, bandstand. These were organized into a variety of categories by Kristen Grant and Sarah Hourihane.

What would you NOT like to see? Fast food, chain stores, McDonalds, video stores, roundabouts, lots of bars, prefab row housing, big box stores, more than three story buildings, big houses/apartments, large industrial buildings.

What are some unique opportunities, considerations and challenges of this site? Senior housing in safe environment, environmental contamination, community college, traffic from Somersworth, the abundance of parking on the Estabrook land, purchase Catholic Church for housing, culture, open space, a blank slate for changes, sustainability.

IMG_8133

IMG_9533

Here is a design idea for the Estabrook/Doran School Parcel, which includes a Common Green (for concerts, movies in the park, gathering), Community Center, Senior Housing and Workforce Housing/Apartments over commercial space.

IMG_8144

Below is a workup of the Prime Tanning Site which includes housing and Commercial space to include shops, restaurants and even a brewery. There is also plenty of green space, tying the whole area together.

IMG_0183

Here are some streetscapes:

IMG_6340

It is important to remember that this is just an envisioning process. Nothing is set in stone, there are no developers bidding on projects, this is just the first step in the process. We are so lucky to have had access to all of that talent at no cost to the taxpayers of Berwick. This is truly a positive step for the community.

About Nichole Fecteau:

I have lived and owned in Southern Maine for over fifteen years. I raised a family in Berwick, ME and my children attend the SAD 60 school district. When not listing and selling property, you can find me enjoying the mountains and lakes of Maine and New Hampshire. I am an avid hiker and have logged countless miles on the Appalacchian trail. I particularly like the rugged Northern Presidentials. Not only do I carry a backpack and tent on the weekends, I can also be found with my fishing pole in the water of backcountry rivers and ponds. My personal motto is “work hard, play hard!.”

I began my real estate career when my youngest son was about to enter Kindergarten. Sales has always been a passion of mine and I considered homes the ultimate items to sell. Once I got my feet wet in the field, I realized that Real Estate is less about sales and more about connections and helping others realize their dreams. I was hooked right from the beginning. I love helping both my clients and colleagues realize their dreams. Each day I walk into my office energized and ready for a new start with fresh challenges and rewards. My passion is selling expired listings- quickly and for top dollar. I focus on Southern Maine and am licensed in NH as well. Nothing makes me happier than giving homeowners hope in selling their homes where they thought there was none.

2012 & 2013 Associate Leadership Council
2012 & 2013 Technology Committee Chairman
Martha Squires Award
Rising Star Award

2010 Berwick Library Committee member
2011 Berwick Recreation Committee member
2013-present Friends of the Berwick Riverfront Chairman
2013-present Berwick Trails Committee Chariman
2015-present Berwick Planning Board member
2015-present Berwick Brownfield Steering Committee member

Penny Pond Trail, Berwick, ME

Here is a link to a (shaky) video of a walk down the Penny Pond Trail in Berwick, ME in October.

Penny Pond Walk

The Penny Pond Trail is on a large parcel of land owned by the Town of Berwick that borders the downtown area. Two trailheads allow access from the library or Dobson Road with a third trailhead on Logan Street being planned for the future. This trail will be vital in fulfilling the Townspeople’s vision of a safe, walkable trail network connecting the downtown area with the outskirts of town.

In the Spring, Summer and Fall, this trail is a delightful place to stroll or even walk your dog. Recently installed bag holders at both trail heads provide a means to clean up after your pup (please bring it with you) or help beautify the trail and our streets be removing litter. Thank you to Robert Flynn, member of the Berwick Trails Committee, for crafting and installing the bag holders. In the Winter, members of the committee shovel Penny Pond (a shallow but wide pond) for ice skating and the trail is perfect for easy snow shoeing.

Check it out sometime and post your experience here!

Do YOU need a home energy audit?

We recently bought a newer (2006) townhome-style condo and assumed that since it is newer construction, it would be pretty “tight.” The condo has central a/c which wasn’t too expensive to run in August so I was really shocked to see how high our heating bills were. We use propane to heat and the furnace is forced hot air. I know the space is bigger than where we were, but the propane consumption was much higher than I expected.

Wingate Condos in BerwickBeing a real estate agent, I have attended many home inspections and have a good idea of the in’s and out’s of homes. I decided to pop into the attic to take a look at the insulation situation. There was an inconsistent layer of blown-in cellulose insulation so I decided to add a layer of fiberglass. After adding a layer of R-30 fiberglass insulation, not using our gas fireplace, and warmer temperatures, we found we used even MORE propane the next month (over 200 gallons.) That’s when I decided to call in someone to do a home energy audit.

After asking friends and looking online, I found STP Home Performance Solutions– a local company with a comprehensive website. Scheduling was easy and Jeff was great to talk to.

Jeff St. Pierre came out to the house about a week and a half later to conduct the field part of the audit. He walked through the entire house with us, talking about issues we have noticed. Then he took out his infrared camera to see where cold air was infiltrating the house.
Nichole Fecteau

Nichole Fecteau

We confirmed some areas of cold air entering the house (the fireplace) and identified others that surprised us (the foundation.) Jeff then looked at the heating system and saw areas where we could do some sealing/insulating to prevent a lot of heat loss. Did we mention this is a newer house? I mean, I did this kind of work to my 200 year old New Englander and never thought I would have to do it in an 8 year old condo!

He then went up into the attic and found a HUGE source of heat loss that never even crossed my mind in all the time I spent up there insulating.

Next came the blower door test, where we really got to see where air was coming in. Jeff determined that the amount of infiltrations we had, when added up, was about the equivalent of having a 17″x17″ window open all of the time. THAT is crazy!

Nichole FecteauNow Jeff will compile the results of the tests into a report and a plan which will outline in order of importance, improvements we can make. I learned a lot about how this service can help both sellers and buyers of mine and will definitely be recommending energy audits to all of my clients!

I am a local real estate agent licensed in Maine and New Hampshire- focused on York and Rockingham counties. If you are interested in learning more about selling, buying or making your property more energy efficient, please reach out to me by filling out the form below.

Contact Jeff and STP Home Performance Solutions by calling (207) 831-0679, emailing info@stphomeperformance.com or going to www.stphomeperformance.com. Tell him you read all about it on my blog and receive no discount, but I will appreciate it! 🙂

How not to make a U-turn- with dogs.

Today was our last day of our dogsledding trip- and the day we would finally run our own sled. Sounds easy enough, right? We met Leo at the trailhead (Darkstar rode in our car, sitting next to me on the passenger’s seat) and get the truck set up to unload the dogs. It was just the three of us today. We harnessed our teams (two teams of eight dogs) and prepped our sleds. Leo gave us a quick lesson on how we were going to make a U-turn and what to do if we flip the sled (never, ever, ever let go!) The U-turn maneuver sounded so good in theory. I would jump out of the sled, pull the lead dogs aside and have them stay. Josh will hold the brake hard, and then start physically turning our sled while Leo turns her team around and they run past our team, who will, in theory, stay put listening intently to our commands.

20140201-084348.jpg

20140201-084354.jpg

When it was time to go, Leo and her team took off first and our team followed. Harvey and Honey Bear were the lead dogs on our very strong team. These guys wanted to fly! Things were going great. Harvey did not really want to stay “Gee” (on the right side of the trail) despite Honey Bear’s best efforts to pull him over. The ride was exciting and more physical than one would expect. Steering the sled is not intuitive and takes some muscling (at least for someone who isn’t used to it.)

20140201-084402.jpg

20140201-084409.jpg

When Leo gave us the signal that it was time to prep for the u-turn we learned that our dogs understand sign language, as they started to make a U turn on their own. I jumped out of the sled and grabbed Harvey and Honey Bear, Josh stood on the brake and we got the team in line again as Leo drove her team past. Once our dogs saw her dogs go by, they took off in pursuit. In a split second, our perfect team was a jumbled mess of lines and dogs. We got the sled turned around and the team straightened out and we were off again.

20140201-084331.jpg

Compared to the U-turn, the rest of the trip was uneventful. Josh found his Dogman voice and I think the team actually started to believe he was in control. The weather was warm and sunny. I passed on the opportunity to drive the sled- this was a strong team. We called out the dogs’ names and told them all what a good job they were doing. When you say a dog’s name while running, you can see they either speed up, their ears move or they turn a little and look back at you. It’s pretty cool. Special thanks to our team- Harvey, Honey Bear, Kestrel, Peri, Zombie, Cooper, Rosebud and Junior Brown. They are strong dogs.

20140201-084341.jpg

Once back, we gave the dogs some meat water (yum!) and got everybody unharnessed, etc. Leo headed back to camp, where Steve and Sean were preparing for a race tomorrow. That concludes our dogsledding adventure.

If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, go to www.NewEnglandDogsledding.com and check out the packages they offer. Steve and Leo are the perfect hosts and passionate “Dogmen” who really love and care about what they do.

I am Dogman!

Last night I slept like the dead and dreamt of dogs. This morning we were off to an earlier start. Josh got up around six and went down to take photos of the sunrise and help with the dogs. I pulled myself out of bed right before breakfast- a great pre-sledding meal of eggs, sausage and bagels.

We headed to the trail and were met by Sean, Steve, Paul, Leo and many many dogs. Today we were going to be riding with Steve, a real pro, on his double sled. We had a 12 dog team and I knew this would be a different experience than our first day. It helped that we knew a little about what to expect. Speaking of what to expect, today I wore an extra layer on top and 2 sets of toe warmers in each boot.

20140130-175522.jpg

We got the teams harnessed, put their booties on and got them in order. This team we were running today is Steve’s “A team”- the team of dogs he takes racing. I could sense a difference in this group before we started running. The dogs were eager to go, barking and getting excited to get running. Once we established our positions on the sled, me sitting in front, Steve standing in the middle position and Josh on the back of the sled, standing, we were off! These dogs were FAST. Steve told us how each dog had a bloodline of Iditarod racers. I could feel the difference, the power. Each dog was pulling over it’s own bodyweight- and they made it seem easy!

20140130-175601.jpg

Steve taught us how to talk to the dogs- friendly, but with authority. To tell them they are doing good and direct them on the trail. We also learned how to steer the sled and “pedal” (push the sled along.) On uphills we had to pedal and get off to run with the sled. It was then we were really able to appreciate the strength and stamina of the dogs. We needed more breaks than them on the uphill climb!

20140130-175717.jpg

When the dogs caught the scent of another animal- be it a moose, chipmunk or another dog, they really took off. It was like stepping on the gas pedal of a hotrod. The sled we were on had two hard brakes and a soft break, used for slowing the team down. Steve kept the dogs at a trot most of the time.

20140130-175807.jpg

Toward the end of our 30 mile ride, Steve let Josh and I drive the sled. The dogs immediately sensed our uneasiness and stopped, turned around and looked at us. Steve guided Josh to find his inner Dogman voice- and so he did, motivating the dogs to pull us. Somehow those dogs know when you don’t believe in what you’re saying- and they don’t believe you either. When Josh got it down pat, he was in control- well, mostly. There is a lot about this trip I can’t possibly convey in writing. I am just not that good with words. The funniest part I can share was Josh and Steve serenading the lead dog, Roxanne, ala Sting. At the tops of their lungs these too sang Roxanne while I just laughed.

20140130-175853.jpg

20140130-175915.jpg

Dogsledding, take one

I am not a dog person- never have been. My fiancé Josh, however, is. For Christmas this year I really wanted to do something special for him. Notoriously against “stuff,” I prefer experiences and found the perfect experience for him. We were going to go dogsledding.

He had mentioned that he wanted to go watch dogsledding before but never mentioned actually doing it. Honestly, I didn’t think you could just go dogsledding without having a dog team and knowing what to do. Living in Maine, we actually have options for dogsledding getaways. After looking online I found the perfect place for us- in our favorite region of Maine. New England Dogsledding (newenglanddogsledding.com) offers day as well as overnight dogsledding packages in their lodge. I booked us a 3 day “Intro to Dogsledding” package in which we would learn dogsledding and eventually drive our own team of dogs. Then I remembered, I am a sun-loving Florida girl- and did I mention that I am not a dog person?

Fast forward one month- we are headed up to Bethel, ME for our trip. As is expected in our business, we are both overwhelmed with clients and obligations and we know we won’t have very good, if any cell service when we arrive. I texted and emailed clients while fielding phone calls on the way up, thinking I would never be able to relax enough to enjoy this trip. Driving down the long driveway to the lodge I lost reception and put my phone into airplane mode, accepting that I wouldn’t get much work done.

As soon as we got out of the car we were greeted by Sean and Paul, the keepers of the dogs. They showed us in and introduced us to Alice (Paul’s girlfriend) and Leo (one of the owners) who showed us to our room and told us the guys were going down to give the dogs some water so suit up and let’s go! We grabbed our bags, put our warm layers on and headed down to the dogs.

There are about 70 dogs there and they are all sweet as pie. We greeted each dog, learned their names, got doggy kisses and scooped a little poop. Around here, if you’re here, you’re participating!

20140130-174439.jpg

We got the dogs loaded into the dog truck and headed to the trail. One thing we learned is that everything is a process with dogsledding. Once at the trailhead we prepped the truck with chains for the dogs, unloaded the pups and sleds. Sean taught us how to harness the dogs and we were back to work harnessing our 10 dog team. Each dog had a pre-planned spot on the team. There were 2 lead dogs, 2 in the point position, 4 “team” dogs and the 2 at the back were the “wheels.” We led each dog to their position, got them set in place and we were ready to go!

20140130-174309.jpg

Sean started out driving the team with Josh and I sitting in the sled. It was hard to believe the dogs were pulling us so effortlessly. It took about a mile or two for them to really warm up (much like me when I run!). Josh then hopped on the back of the sled with Sean and learned how to drive the team for about 8 miles. We stopped a few times to let the dogs rest but the funny thing was that they were almost annoyed by us stopping. Sean was great at reading the team and switched some of the dogs’ positions on the team so they were performing at their best and undistracted. They were built to run and that’s what they wanted to do.

It was my turn to hop on back and let Josh enjoy the scenery from the sled. I was surprised at the power of the team when they jolted us forward the first time. Sean would call out the dogs names to motivate or correct them as needed. He taught me to slow the sled to a stop, shouting “easy…easy…WHOA!” Yeah, the dogs didn’t think I was serious about that one…

Once our 16 miles was done, we helped get the dogs in the dog truck and headed back to the lodge to warm up. It was COLD outside! During the trip I stayed pretty comfortable with my 4 layers of technical winter clothing, rabbit fur cap and beaver fur gloves- but even with hand warmers in my boots, my toes were NUMB.

The lodge was warm and smelled amazing when we arrived. We changed into comfy clothes. Josh took care of some business that needed his attention. Alice had cheese, crackers and wine ready for us. Sitting by the fire, sipping wine, writing this blog post and talking to Steve, one of the owners, I am cozy and looking forward to a wonderful dinner and another day of sledding tomorrow!

20140130-174705.jpg

Friends of the Berwick Riverfront Formally Accepted by Berwick Selectmen

The Friends of the Berwick Riverfront made a presentation last night at the Board of Selectmen’s Meeting in Berwick. Dennis Dupuis,  co-chair and I talked to the Board about our vision for a recreational canoe/kayak access spot on the Salmon Falls River. The access point would be on Rochester Street at the site of the old Water Department pump station. We discussed constructing a boat ramp similar to this one:

Image

and removing/replacing the building that is currently on the site. The Selectmen voted and formally accepted the Friends of the Berwick Riverfront as a committee with limited scope at this point. Our next step is to obtain quotes for installing the boat ramp and removing and replacing the building. Committee member Scott Richardson is looking into grants that may help fund the project. Kim Taylor is working with the Sewer Department to see the feasibility of bringing Town Sewer lines to the site. Craig Plaisted is researching possibilities for the new building.

The Selectmen voted and approved the committee as follows.

Dennis Dupuis- co-chair

Nichole Fecteau- co-chair

Scott Richardson

Craig Plaisted

Cameron Plaisted

Joshua Matthews

Virginia Charron

Bob Flynn

Kim Taylor

The next Friends of the Berwick Riverfront meeting is scheduled for Tuesday the 28th of January in Town Hall at 5:00pm.

Find us on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheBerwickRiverfront

Interested in joining the Friends of the Berwick Riverfront? Contact Nichole- nicholefecteau@gmail.com