AUGUSTA — Nearly every day of the week, you’ll find Joe Linscott at Capitol Area Recreation Association’s complex of ballfields and courts.

He’s one of a core group of visionaries who created a recreation complex many say is like no other in the country, and he’s protecting that vision of a place for area youth to come and play.

He’s at work even when the task at hand is as mundane as mowing acre after acre of well-groomed grass covering the baseball, softball, Little League, soccer, football and lacrosse fields along Piggery Road on land once home to a farm attached to the former Augusta Mental Health Institute.

For his unending efforts, Linscott has been selected by the officers and members of Le Club Calumet for their Outstanding Citizen Award.

“Joe, through his foresight, wanted to make youth activities bigger and better, to allow more kids to have a place to play their ballgames,” said Roland Maheux, a member of the Calumet club’s awards committee. “It has been a facility that has benefited kids from six to 80 years old, if you count the horseshoe pitching boxes. We’re talking thousands and thousands of kids that have benefited from the work he did in building that complex. He is just out there for the good of the kids, and the good of the community.”

A dinner is planned May 11 at 6 p.m. at the Calumet club to bestow the Outstanding Citizen of Award, which the club awards to non-club members who have done a lot for the community. Tickets will not be available at the door, but can be bought by calling 441-1062. Tickets must be requested by May 4.

Linscott, a self-described jock in his youth whose athletic endeavors were slowed by a broken wrist, got involved with Augusta East Little League in 1971 when his oldest son played in the league. At the time there was just one ball field at what is now a sprawling CARA complex on some 70 acres off Hospital Street.

The site had been used as a farm by the adjacent former AMHI complex, but was unused and a state study recommended the land be sold so it could be developed commercially.

A handful of Little League leaders had a different idea — turn the land into a recreation complex with multiple athletic fields. The group incorporated in 1974 and, following legislation sponsored by the late Sen. Bennett Katz, entered into a 25-year-lease for the state-owned property.

But to get the state to sign off on the deal, they had to present a plan for how they’d use the land. What they presented was considered by some at the time to be overly ambitious. Their vision for the site, which Linscott said was drawn up by the organization’s first president, Bill Perry, showed two Little League fields, two softball fields, two regulation baseball fields and a football field.

Over the years, piece by piece, they’ve fulfilled that vision and then some, adding basketball courts, three soccer fields, more ballfields than even they had envisioned, a multi-purpose field that has been used by youth football and lacrosse teams, and even a professional-level horseshoe complex.

Hard act to follow

And they didn’t do it with one huge donor, but with countless smaller donations and their own hands in the dirt.

“We don’t have a Stephen King or Harold Alfond, but we have a lot of volunteers, and number one among those is Joe Linscott,” said Gary Burns, a past president of CARA who, like many who have been involved in the organization over the years, still volunteers there. “The projects we’ve done, we’ve done by hook or crook. We’ve always been broke. We get the equipment loaned to us, we pay the driver and buy the gas, and the rest is done by volunteers.

“I don’t know that there is anything else like it in the country. It’s just a tremendous facility that so many people have put a lot of work into.”

At 78, Linscott helps care for his wife, Betty, who he notes supported him when he went to college at the University of Maine.

He still spends nearly every day at the ballfields. Mowing lawns. Putting down lines on the fields. Doing what needs to be done.

“There are always some little things I see that need to be done here — that becomes my goal for the next day,” Linscott said. “I don’t like to sit on the couch and watch TV. I like to be active.”

Linscott said he loves to come out to the complex and see all the fields in use.

He said he and the hundreds of volunteers have put in so much time there because they wanted to build something for the community.

“I like to see things develop and be involved in building things up,” he said. “Many of us had a vision many years ago, what this could be. We had some detractors who thought we couldn’t make this happen. The reward comes when you come out here at night and every single field is in use. This has been a total community effort here.”

CARA President Paul Potvin said kids having a place to play is important.

“It’s not about how many home runs you hit or any of that stuff,” Potvin said. “It’s to keep them active and teach them something. The ideas of teamwork and leadership and getting along with others and making things work in a group environment.”

The all-volunteer CARA raises money to build and maintain its projects, with efforts including concession stands — manned by volunteers — advertising signs on fences, the Bob Burns CARA Open Golf Tournament, and an online auction. It’s website is www.cara-maine.org.

Potvin said many users assume the fields they’re playing have been built and maintained by the city. While the city has cooperated on some projects at the site by donating time and equipment, the complex does not receive city funding.

Linscott and other CARA volunteers, who have since renewed the original 25-year lease for the site with the state with a 99-year lease for which CARA does not pay any rent, hope to see what they’ve created be maintained into the future.

“I’ve told people there are some things I’m going to need help with,” Linscott said. “That’s a major goal of CARA, that we attract new people. We can’t keep relying on the same people, because we’re not always going to be around.”

Burns said he hopes the recognition Linscott has received, including being inducted into the Maine Sports Legends’ Hall of Honors last year, will help encourage younger people to get involved and volunteer with CARA.

But they’re going to have to work hard to keep up with Linscott.

“I see it continuing. I think there will be enough young people involved,” Burns said. “I can’t imagine it not; it’s such a part of us. We really can’t let it go. A lot of people put a lot of work in there.

“But at the end of the day, it’s Joe Linscott. Nobody does what Joe does.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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