2016-11-24 / Front Page

Reviews are mixed for Port trail proposal

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — A proposed trailhead across town property in Kennebunkport is getting mixed reviews, even though the town would not have to pay for it.

Beachwood Park, located off Beachwood Avenue, boasts the town’s only public tennis courts, along with a basketball court, a playground and a picnic area. However, it’s been adopted and cared for by the Kennebunk Portside Rotary. A couple of years ago, it was formally renamed Rotary Park at Beachwood.

According to Portside Rotary treasurer Dave Jourdan, the club recently received a $3,400 grant from the district rotary. It plans to match that with $3,000 of its own to install toilet facilities at the playground, plus a trailhead that will link to other walking trails maintained by the Rotary and the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust (KCT)

According to Kennebunkport Recreation Director Carol Cook, the new trailhead would go over the hill on the parking lot side of the tennis courts, behind the town salt sheds.

From there the trail would cross over the old town landfill to an existing tote road. From there it would connect with Bradbury Trail, a newly developed Rotary Trail, and the Taylor Brook lot owned by KCT.

Selectmen liked the idea of the toilet facilities, especially as they will be incinerator units that will require relatively little maintenance. However, some on the board were critical of the trailhead idea.

“I just don’t see the need for it,” Selectman Ed Hutchins said. “I just don’t like the idea of putting the general public down through the highway department.”

Hutchins also suggested more trails might be overkill for the town.

“Drive half a mile up the road and you’re at another trail head,” he said. “Drive a mile up the road and you’re at the conservation trust. Then you can drive another mile beyond that to the most beautiful of all Kennebunkport Conservation Trust trails, the Smith Preserve.

“There’s over 12 miles there. Then you can go around the corner on Mills Road to Tyler Brook, which will give you access to all of this. You might have to walk a little bit, but that’s the idea. I just don’t see that this is necessary and, yet, the idea keeps coming back, like a bad penny.”

Selectmen conducted a site walk of the property Oct. 27 and were due to vote on the concept at their Nov. 10 meeting.

In addition to Hutchins, abutters Gilman and Karen Parent also raised concern.

When the playground first went in about 15 years ago, Gilman Parent said his insurance company demanded higher premiums, due to the close proximity of a public recreation point. Encouraging even more people to access the site promised legal headaches in addition to costly insurance bills, he predicted.

“I’m wondering what kind of protections there are for me,” he said. “If someone crosses over that boundary and gets hurt on my property, I’m looking at a lawsuit, and I really don’t think that’s right for me.”

As it is, the Parents said, they have trouble living next to the park. Gilman Parent said people use the tennis and basketball courts before and after the posted hours, sometimes illuminating the site using car headlights pointed at their home.

Tennis balls are “all over” his lawn, he said, while people have been known to fill their water bottles using the outside faucet on his house.

“I don’t need that,” he said.

“Understood, heard, and appreciated,” replied Stuart Barwise, chairman of the board of selectmen.

However, Barwise suggested selectmen could approve the project and then adjust on the fly to countermand any adverse effect on the Parents, or possible vandalism to the salt sheds.

“It’s on town property. So, nothing is unfixable,” he said. “We could suspend things if it’s not working well.”

However, the balance of the board said they’d prefer to first see “specifics” on signage and fencing designed to direct hikers away from town buildings and the Parent home.

“Who’s going to pay for all of that?” Hutchins asked.

There was not ready answer to that question.

Instead, selectmen directed Jourdan, Cook and Town Manager Laurie Smith to bring a more comprehensive plan to the Dec. 8 board meeting.

Meanwhile, the playground at Rotary Park at Beachwood is due for an upgrade.

At their Oct. 27 meeting, selection awarded a contract to New England Recreation Group of Westboro, Massachusetts, to rebuild the 40-by-40 foot play area for $19,500.

The town also is paying Maine Recreation and Design of Brunswick $23,669 to re-do the playground at Parson’s Field.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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