2017-08-24 / Front Page

Bandstand has to clear local and state hurdles

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Long time summer resident of Ocean Park Beth Keene hopes she and her family can build a new bandstand in the north east corner of Furber Park. The area Keene hopes to to build the bandstand is under shore land restrictions from the town and state and construction will require an ordinance change. (Grant McPherson photo) Long time summer resident of Ocean Park Beth Keene hopes she and her family can build a new bandstand in the north east corner of Furber Park. The area Keene hopes to to build the bandstand is under shore land restrictions from the town and state and construction will require an ordinance change. (Grant McPherson photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Ocean Park may see a new bandstand at Furber Park if plans meet building regulations required by the town and state.

The location of the proposed Ocean Park Memorial Bandstand, at 11 Temple Ave., is in a flood zone, shore land zone and a dune area. The zoning board of appeals will meet to discuss the matter at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28 in town council chambers. A previous bandstand existed in Ocean Park in the early 20th century before being torn down in the mid-1920s.

Ocean Park Educational Bureau President Beth Keene wants to construct the bandstand in honor of her late husband, Douglas R. Keene, who died two years ago. The two discussed the idea of one in town, as many New England communities have bandstands in a central green space. Keene and her immediate family would pay an estimated $100,000 for the construction of the bandstand.

“Since my husband passed my family and I feel we are in a place where we want to do that in his memory,” she said.

Ocean Park was founded in 1881 by Baptists and at the time only men were allowed to be preachers. The educational bureau was founded in 1885 by women to provide education for themselves and their children. Today the bureau offers weeklong summer and day camps in visual arts, theater, dance and ecology.

Keene said it’s a struggle to keep programs running because women today are busier in ways that didn’t exist 100 years ago.

“I think there are only seven or nine permanent Chautauqua communities in the country, where there used to be close to 100,” she said.

The Chautauqua education movement began in 1874 in Chautauqua, New York as a place for Sunday school teachers to spend the summer. Similar communities focused on moral self-improvement and civic involvement arose in rural areas across the country where opportunities for a formal secondary education were limited. Ocean Park is a dry community where commercial business do not sell alcohol or tobacco. Keene hopes the new bandstand can serve the community in the traditional Chautauqua capacity.

“I think it will become a cherished building in the square and add to the goals of culture and entertainment in Ocean Park,” she said.

Keene’s grandmother, Florence Chase, was 2 years old and present at the Ocean Park Temple dedication in 1881. Her family is from Lowell, Massachusetts but has continued to come to Ocean Park every summer. Keene is now retired and spends her winters in northern Virginia. She enjoys the family tradition that was passed down to her.

“The sense of community is very strong here,” she said.

The bandstand is designed to be an open octagonal structure with a 22-foot diameter and be able to accommodate bands with between 25 and 30 members. Keene realized there was a need for one when the Ocean Park Association closed the streets in the past for outdoor concerts. However, visibility becomes difficult when the band is at ground level.

“We have wonderful indoor venues for concerts, presentations and gatherings but we don’t have an outdoor site that allows good visibility where people can gather,” Keene said.

Ocean Park Association members voted 44 to 14 at the annual meeting in July to accept the offer from Keene and her family. While there are some in the community resistant to change, Keene said she has felt a great deal of support. If the project is approved she hopes to have the bandstand built by spring 2018.

Approval will not be easy to come by, however. Old Orchard Beach Town Planner Jeffrey Hinderliter said the proposed area falls under not only state shore land zoning, but an even more restrictive zoning ordinance from the town that takes into consideration the possibility of climate change and flooding. Even if the town does approve the zoning change, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection could shut the project down if it isn’t comfortable with the proposal.

“If the shore land zoning didn’t exist I expect there would be no issue, as it is we can’t ignore it,” Hinderliter said.

Code Enforcement Official Dan Feeney’s main concern is making sure the bandstand will be properly affixed to the earth. In case of a flood or hurricane, the town must make sure the new structure isn’t in danger of floating away or becoming a projectile. Feeney will have a better idea of how feasible the project is by the time of the meeting.

“It seems (the bandstand) is wanted and would be used,” Feeney said. “It would be a great attraction down there. As long as it meets codes and ordinances there won’t be an issue.”

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