FAYETTE — A public/private partnership here, aimed at helping a family relocate near relatives and opening Hales Pond to public access, has ground to a halt.

Despite grant funding approval and more than $48,000 in local contributions to help fund the deal, David and Rebecca Manter remain firmly on their 28-acre Young Road property, caught in a catch-22.

“My feeling is we really shouldn’t be selling this place until we have a place to move to,” Rebecca Manter said recently. “We don’t take out loans because we’re likely not going to be able to pay them back.”

They say they’re unable to move to land they’ve bought in Bridgton because they won’t sell their Fayette property until they have a home to move to, and they lack the funds to build until they sell the land.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Fayette Town Manager Mark Robinson. “People that contributed cared for this family and wanted them to have a better life. It was much less of an effort to provide a public park than to end an ugly 40-year history over road law.”

Last September, Roberta Manter told town officials that before they could relocate, they needed help making and storing 3,000 bales of hay, creating a storage building on the new property and putting in a new culvert there. She said their intent was to build a tire house on the new land.

Selectmen said at the time that there was only so much the town could do to assist the move so the Manters could sell their Fayette property for the new public park.

A lingering, long-standing dispute over the status of Young Road is another obstacle.

“The Hales Pond Preserve Project failed largely because the Manters felt they could not in good conscience sell the land without first clarifying the legal status of the road,” Rebecca Manter wrote to selectmen in May. Young Road is a public easement, meaning the public can travel it and the town has no obligation to maintain it.

She proposed an article for the June 2013 Town Meeting warrant that would make the south end of Young Road — where the Manters live — accepted as a public way. Selectmen declined to put it on the warrant.

The Manters have sought for decades to change the laws governing public easement roads, so long in fact that a 2001 video “Oak Hill Road Wars,” by Betsy Connor Bowen, documents their efforts. The Maine court system has ruled on various issues involving the road several times in the past 25 years, and at one point David Manter was sentenced to 10 days in jail for blocking the road.

David Manter insists the holdup with the property transaction is the town’s fault and says a number of Fayette residents are sympathetic to the Manters’ position.

“If selectmen allowed the townspeople to discuss (the road issue), it might’ve gone through,” David Manter said.

The Manters don’t fault Robinson. In fact, they say he’s done great work to try to help resolve the road issue.

The Manters do upkeep on the road because it’s the only access to their home, but say other users, including logging trucks, cause heavy damage.

“It’s gotten to the point that I physically as well as financially can’t keep the road open,” David Manter said recently. Manter, who bought the property in 1971, said he’s dealing with cancer, which is currently in remission.

Rebecca Manter estimated the family has spent $2,000 a year for the past 42 years for road maintenance.

“I still think if the people knew what we’d gone through, they’d vote for something that makes more sense than what we’ve got now,” she said.

State officials, however, say there’s still hope the Hales Pond Park deal can progress.

“We here at Inland Fisheries & Wildlife are patient,” said Leon Bucher, federal aid coordinator/planner at the department. “We would still like to be able to make this work for everybody. We have had numerous projects that take several years for everything to fall together to be able to move forward. With Hales Pond, not everything was in alignment for this to be able to move forward.”

The project initially was to be funded as land acquisition and a development project under the Land for Maine’s Future program.

“We have gone beyond the time when the previously submitted application would be considered valid,” Bucher said, but he said that the project could be eligible for funding through a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Grant because it attempts to acquire public access to the pond for fishing and boating.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]

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