Jubilee Park: Captivating Beauty Beyond the Covered Bridge
Nestled along the banks of the picturesque Saco River in Saco, Maine, lies Jubilee Park—a charming oasis covering three fourths of an acre. This small park may go unnoticed by passersby, as it is tucked away and accessible solely through a covered bridge from Water Street. But once you discover it, you’ll be captivated by its natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere.
As you approach Jubilee Park, you’ll first encounter the covered bridge that leads to this hidden gem. It’s important to note that not every bridge with a roof is considered a covered bridge. True covered bridges boast a unique timber structure designed to evenly distribute their load. Beyond their functional purpose, covered bridges are aesthetically pleasing, exuding a rustic charm that harks back to a bygone era. The roof serves a dual role: it protects the timber from deterioration, ensuring the bridge’s longevity, and shields it from the elements. In the case of Jubilee Park, the roof was replaced with a modern design in 2010, maintaining the bridge’s historic character.
Jubilee Park is a beloved destination, offering a charming atmosphere enhanced by the presence of a covered bridge. Though small, the park provides three picnic tables, a checker table, and a scenic view of the rapids.
Jubilee Park is often referred to as Jubilee Island due to its location surrounded by the Saco River. Throughout history, the river has played a vital role in the development of the City of Saco. Native Americans once relied on the river’s abundant resources, utilizing its falls for fishing and its banks for hunting. The river was named by the Wabanaki as “Saco” meaning “flowing out.” This name is a testament to the river’s continuous journey, flowing southeast for approximately 125 miles, originating at the highest peak in the northeast, Mount Washington. As runoff descends from Mount Washington, it fills Saco Lake, a small body of water in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. The river then meanders its way, eventually emptying into the vast Atlantic Ocean below Biddeford and Saco, Maine. Over the years, the Saco River has provided the surrounding community with industry, power, transportation, drinking water, and recreation.
The park itself is meticulously maintained, boasting paved paths that wind through the lush greenery. Picnic areas equipped with tables and benches invite visitors to relax and enjoy the serene ambiance. In 2019, Saco Mainstreet even participated in a grant contest, aiming to secure $25,000 to refurbish Jubilee Island and Diamond Park, highlighting the community’s commitment to preserving and enhancing these natural spaces. Notable features within Jubilee Park include small boxes attached to trees, serving as cozy homes for birds and bats, as well as an outdoor chessboard that adds a touch of whimsy and entertainment to the park.
Jubilee Park is an ideal destination for family gatherings and outdoor activities, particularly during the vibrant spring season when flowers are in full bloom and the air is filled with the harmonious sounds of birds and ducks feeding along the riverbanks. The park’s one-acre size makes it a perfect spot for Sunday evening relaxation while enjoying the melodic tunes of local musicians during the summer Jubilee Island Music Series. While there are a few benches and picnic tables available, visitors are encouraged to bring their own seating and snacks, making it a cozy and personalized experience. The wide, paved path across the bridge ensures that Jubilee Park is accessible to guests of all abilities, ensuring that everyone can enjoy its enchanting beauty.
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Jubilee Park is not just a serene haven for nature enthusiasts—it also holds historical significance. The Saco River has been a witness to the development of the surrounding communities over the centuries. The river was a crucial element in the rise of industries and immigration to the region. In the 17th century, European explorers arrived and were welcomed into Wabanaki communities. The river’s natural resources and protected land provided sustenance and fertile ground for cultivation. However, misunderstandings and misinterpretations of Wabanaki hospitality led to the dispossession of their homeland.
With the arrival of European settlers came the growth of industries along the Saco River. The profitable trade of lumbering began with the development of Saco’s first sawmill in the mid 1650s. By the end of the 17th century, the river’s waterpower aided in the flourishing local lumber industry. Hydropower stations were established, utilizing the river’s natural rapids, such as Hiram Falls. At Saco Falls, nearly 17 sawmills stood by 1800. The river also facilitated shipbuilding, with its wide canals serving as ideal locations for construction and transport.
Nearby quarries provided a rich source of granite, while metal and ironworkers utilized the river’s power to drive manufacturing advancements in Biddeford and Saco. In 1825, the country’s largest cotton mill, the Saco Manufacturing Company, was established, and Cutts Island, later known as Factory Island, became renowned for its textile manufacturing enterprise. The Pepperell and Laconia Mills gained international reach, attracting an influx of immigrant laborers, including French-Canadians and Irish, who greatly shaped the local community’s cultural fabric.
The history of the Saco River is intertwined with the growth of transportation in the region. Prior to the construction of the first bridge in 1758, small boats and ferries were the primary means of crossing the river. In the early 1800s, dams and channels were constructed to facilitate transportation, shortening the river’s course by 15 miles and creating the “Canal River” through Fryeburg. In 1857, the historic Hemlock Bridge was built in Fryeburg over the Saco River’s Old Course, standing as a testament to the river’s significance and the engineering marvels of the past. Furthermore, the river served as a conduit for driving logs downstream, transporting them to the lumber yards in Biddeford and Saco. However, due to the dangers posed by log jams during freezing temperatures, log drives were eventually outlawed in 1967. The arrival of the Boston and Maine Railroad in the 1870s brought further accessibility to the seaside resorts along the southern coast, connecting the region to major cities like Boston and Portland.
Whether you visit Jubilee Park in the vibrant springtime when nature awakens in all its glory, or during the crisp autumn months when the park is adorned with a kaleidoscope of colors, you’re guaranteed to find a secluded haven where you can breathe in the fresh air and reconnect with nature. While going out of your way to visit Jubilee Park may not be necessary, it undoubtedly offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life—a peaceful sanctuary where you can immerse yourself in the scenic vistas of the Saco River. So, if you find yourself in Saco, Maine, be sure to make a stop at Jubilee Park, explore its hidden wonders, and experience the serenity it has to offer.
What’s Nearby Jubilee Park
Jubilee Park in Saco, Maine, is surrounded by a variety of nearby attractions that cater to different interests. Clifford Park offers an extensive trail network and picturesque overlooks, providing hikers and mountain bikers with stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. Nature enthusiasts can explore Blandings Park Wildlife Sanctuary, a tranquil haven known for its diverse bird species and wildlife. For those interested in history, a visit to Laurel Hill Cemetery reveals the area’s rich past and offers a peaceful setting for reflection.
Ferry Beach State Park beckons beach lovers with its sandy shores, dunes, and scenic trails. There’s also the unique ecosystem of Saco Heath Preserve showcases rare plant species and features a boardwalk trail for visitors to immerse themselves in the captivating natural surroundings. With these nearby attractions, visitors to Jubilee Park can extend their adventures and discover the diverse wonders of Saco, Maine.
Jubilee Park Parking Information
For visitors planning to explore Jubilee Park, parking options are available near the entrance, although it may be limited. Street parking is typically available in the vicinity, allowing you to conveniently access the park. When visiting Jubilee Park, take note of the address: 26 Water St, Saco, ME 04072.
To reach the park, if you are coming from Biddeford at I-95, you can take exit 4 (SR 111, Alfred Road) and head east to US 1 (Elm Street). From there, turn left and continue for approximately 1.6 miles until you reach Water Street. Turn right onto Water Street, and follow it for about 0.1 mile until you reach Jubilee Park on the right-hand side. The park is accessible through the covered pedestrian bridge from Water Street.
Jubilee Park operates during the day from spring to fall, providing ample opportunities for visitors to enjoy its natural beauty and tranquil setting. However, it is important to note that the park is closed during the winter months. Therefore, plan your visit accordingly and make the most of Jubilee Park’s availability during the warmer seasons.