Concerned about proposed Intervale ballfield project

| Letter to the editor from Tim and Lisa Knedler |

Dear New Gloucester Neighbors and Residents,

Did you know that there is an effort underway by the Gray New Gloucester Little League (GNGLL) and the Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) to expand and develop the current Intervale ballfield? This project will significantly change scope of the existing ballfield as it more than triples its size. It destroys an existing hay field, impacts access to traditional hunting grounds, and spans protected wetlands.

As neighboring property owners, we were unaware until much planning and fundraising was well underway. Abutters on both sides of this property are outdoor enthusiasts who chose the Intervale for their homes as the character of the current ballfield fits the country charm of the Lower Village outskirts. The traditional land use and all that that the meadows and woodlands have to offer draw people to hunt, fish, explore, and enjoy the flora and fauna in this area. The Intervale Ballfield project will impact the quality of these activities through the destruction of habitat and potential encroachment on and contamination of the wetlands that surround the current and proposed fields. Make no mistake, we support the well-being, education, and health of kids as we have volunteered countless hours for local youth organizations and events. We also value the pristine nature that New Gloucester offers its citizens and are determined to do our part to protect the fragile ecosystems along the intervale.  While we generally believe that landowners should have the freedom to do what they choose with their property, so long as it is lawful, we have significant and numerous concerns about this proposed project and have shared those concerns with town officials and the organizations involved.

The only access to the proposed third ballfield is through wetlands on a landlocked parcel unseen from the road via a planned boardwalk (20 feet wide by over 200 feet long). This project includes a parking lot with 72 paved spaces, three full fields one of which is slated in an area surrounded by the former site of the New Gloucester Railroad Station and a wetland. The project proposes a concession stand, restrooms, storage buildings, and lighting for night games which will impact the character of the Intervale as seen from Gloucester Hill and the historic district just uphill from the site.

If this past season is any indication of things to come, the neighboring landowners have significant reservations that go beyond the environmental and traditional use concerns. During that time, the field was vandalized on more than a few occasions. The port-a-potty was knocked over at least once (this is common during typical seasons with contents seeping into the wetland), trash was discarded along the roadside for a quarter of a mile or more, and the driveway damage to both neighboring residences was significant. This area became a safety hazard to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Given that there is only one field currently, adding two more would surely continue to erode these properties and disrupt the peaceful environment the Intervale has offered residents.

At the end of the season, we visited the ballfield and quickly filled a large garbage bag with trash left behind by players and spectators with enough on site to fill many more. The parking lot has been used as a campsite (for several days on some occasions), a launch zone for fireworks, and a dump site for trash including linoleum on other household debris. The Gray-New Gloucester Little League has not been a good steward of the land as it currently stands. Town officials and residents should be concerned about additional facilities and a field that is not seen from the road in terms of use and upkeep. While GNGLL is not at fault for the vandalism and misuse of the land, they need to be responsible for the security of the site as further development will only entice more use of this fragile ecosystem of forest and wetlands.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect to this collaboration is that the very mission of the Royal River Conservation Trust is at odds with a project of this scope and nature. Upon reviewing the town’s Comprehensive Plan, there are clear conflicts in terms of Town Character, Elevation and Scenic views, Wetlands/Flood Zones and the Green Belt System. We are asking for the town planner and selectmen to include the neighbors in any permitting, zoning, and development conversations. Our properties need to be protected in respect to run off, privacy, and security from a project that is pushing if not potentially violating wetland zoning rules. Please help us protect the Intervale from development. Conservation is the wisest use of natural resources; this is now more important than ever due to rampant development within our community.

Voice your opinion to help our town determine the fate of the Intervale by contacting the planner or a selectman, Gray-New Gloucester Little League, and the Royal River Conservation Trust with your concerns. 


Tim and Lisa Knedler

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this opinion piece are solely those of the author. Publication does not reflect endorsement by the NGXchange or its volunteers. NGX welcomes diverse viewpoints and invites your submissions. Learn more here.