The man responsible for the oversight of what are perhaps the two foremost summertime destinations in Lincoln County fell three votes short of re-election Monday.
For four consecutive three-year terms and part of a fifth, Bristol Parks and Recreation Commissioner Gordon Benner has managed Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park and Pemaquid Beach Park, two jewels of the region. Both parks draw gobs of paying visitors and play a crucial role in driving the service economy on the peninsula.
While the beach and the lighthouse are the main attractions, the parks commission manages several other properties. Some provide water access for recreation, like the canoe and kayak launch on the Pemaquid River and the swimming hole just downstream. Some preserve history or protect working waterfront, like the Old Rock Schoolhouse and the town landings.
The cover of this year’s Bristol town report underlines the role Bristol’s parks play in the community. The illustration by our own Glenn Chadbourne in recognition of the town’s 250th anniversary features nine Bristol landmarks. Five of the nine landmarks are parks or within parks, and two – the footbridge to Gary’s Island and the visitors center at Ellingwood Park – were created under Gordon’s watchful eye.
While there are beautiful places to visit in every town in Lincoln County, the network of parks in Bristol is without rival. Bristol residents should be proud of their parks, and they have Gordon Benner to thank for the maintenance, improvements, and expansion of the parks in recent years.
The title of commissioner or even chairman does not fully convey Gordon’s role at the parks. He directed nearly every detail of parks business, from running big events like the fireworks on Saturday night of Olde Bristol Days to small-yet-important details like clean bathrooms.
Gordon has a get-it-done mentality and he gets it done, from the construction of the Learning Center at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park to the complete overhaul of Ellingwood Park in under a year from its purchase.
Apparently Bristol voters felt the time has come for a change in leadership – or at least three more did than didn’t, pending a recount. Gordon’s likely successor has an excellent reputation in the community, and we are sure he will serve the town well. But Gordon Benner deserves the gratitude of the people of Bristol for his exemplary stewardship of their iconic parks.