AUGUSTA — The Capital Area Recreation Association, the volunteer organization known as CARA, is turning 40 this year and plans are underway for an October banquet honoring the hundreds of people who have helped make the organization a success.
“We hope to put together a pretty good history of CARA,” said Joe Linscott, an original member of the board of directors. “There’s a lot of work involved with getting not only the history of CARA but of each organization.”
The association oversees seven separate organizations from Augusta Little League to the Kennebec Valley Horseshoe Pitchers Association, and each has a representative on the board.
The association has blossomed since incorporating in 1974 and today 11 fields for softball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse line the mile long stretch of the Piggery Road on the east side of the city along with a couple of basketball courts and 20 horseshoe pits. The association has a 99-year lease from the state for approximately 94 acres of land on the northwest side of Piggery Road.
The fields have hosted hundreds of high school events, American Legion and Babe Ruth baseball tournaments as well as high school state championships and serve as a resource for towns throughout central Maine.
Volunteers not only built fields and their accompanying infrastructure, including bleachers, concessions, dugouts, batting cages and the like, they are also constantly improving the complex.
“Our hope is each group will try to improve what they have,” Linscott said. “Never be satisfied with what you have, try to make it a little bit better.”
Recent projects include installing drainage and expanding parking and access to the Youth Memorial Fields, which are used for soccer and lacrosse. More than 100 trees have been planted throughout the complex and there are plans this year to prune those and plant several more this year.
“The whole complex runs on volunteer-ism,” said Gary Sawyer, another original board member. “We try to bring new blood on the board but people don’t just volunteer the way they used to.”
Added Linscott: “There are people out there who will help, they just don’t step forward like they did in the past. You have to ask.”
The association has an endowment fund and raises money through donations, concessions and an annual golf tournament. Many of its projects have been completed with donated help from local construction companies.
“We’ve never really attempted a big fundraiser,” Linscott said. “We’ve never gone citywide. There’s a few people out there who have been very generous to us.”
Linscott said a fundraiser may be proposed at the 40th birthday celebration, scheduled for 4 p.m., Oct. 11 at the Calumet Club in Augusta.
But he added, “you have to have a specific project in mind before you ask for money.”
One project the association has flirted with is building an all-turf field, although Linscott said there are maintenance concerns since fields typically have to be replaced within 10 years.
In addition to making plans for a 40th birthday celebration, CARA also elected officers at a recent meeting.
The elections resulted in the following officers: President, Paul Potvin; Vice-president, Cam McKee; Secretary, Mark Perry; and Treasurer, Steve Brooks. There are seven facility/organization representatives, including Dawn McFarland from Augusta Little League, Andy Wing of the Capital Area Youth Softball Association, Joe Linscott from the Augusta Babe Ruth, Shawn Drillen from Lacrosse, Leif Dahlin from the City of Augusta, David “Punky” Gallant from the KV Horseshoe Pitchers Association, and Tony Dumont from the Capital Area Soccer Club.
Also elected as board members at large were Raymond Beaudoin, Janice Howe, Gary Sawyer, David Hastings, Eric Lindquist, Tom Linscott, Steve Roberge, Gary Burns, Gary Lapierre, Paul Rodrigue, Mark O’Brien, Ralph Stiman, Mike Bechard, and Al Cloutier. There are five Lifetime Honorary members: Walter Golden, Bill Dowling; Garry Markoff, Bill Perry and Dennis Towle.