An artist’s rendering by RS Leonard Landscape Architecture and Main-Land Development Consultants shows a concept plan for the Community Park and Conservation Project in Readfield. Town residents are expected to vote at Tuesday’s town meeting on the $700,000 athletic complex project, proposed for off Church Road. Rendering courtesy town of Readfield

READFIELD — A proposal to build a $700,000 athletic complex is among the major issues on which residents are to vote at Tuesday’s Town Meeting at the Harold and Ted Alfond Athletics Center at Kents Hill School.

The facility, which would be built at the 36-acre, municipally owned Readfield Fairgrounds property off Church Road, would include a softball field near the existing Keene Community Recreational Park ball field and a multiuse court for basketball and pickleball.

The project, intended to create recreational opportunities for residents of all ages, would include amenities, such as a concession stand for community and sporting events. It would also involve digging a well for drinking water and water for the cemetery, and establishing a location for portable toilets.

The project would also include converting existing on-field parking to grassland, removing the access road that divides the field area and creating a curated pollinator garden to help sustain existing life in the field.

Project advocates have said they are excited to see a central spot dedicated to community recreation and events, and a place for children to play.

Opponents have voiced concern about the potential environmental impact, cost and proposed location.


In a June 1 letter to the editor, published in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, Readfield Resident Greg Durgin said the Readfield Elementary School’s athletic field is in need of upgrades and is large enough to accommodate the plan. He said an alternative site, such as the elementary school, could save taxpayers significant money, while mitigating the environmental impact.

Durgin is a member of the Readfield Trails Committee and the Readfield Conservation Commission, but he said his views are not representative of either group, whose members have differing thoughts on the project.

Bruce Hunter, chairman of Readfield Conservation Commission, said the group has worked to create a document expressing its concerns about the proposed project, with pros and cons outlined at the top.

The Readfield Fairgrounds property off Church Road, which could be the site of new athletic fields, features hiking trails and the Keene Community Recreational Park ball field. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The pros include that the central location would be convenient, two fields at one location would benefit summer programs and the combined fields could be used for other athletic activities, including soccer, or community events, such as Heritage Days or Halloween. The commission supports having the project use existing infrastructure.

The cons include the loss of critical habitat for pollinators and monarch butterflies, which are in severe decline partly due to the loss of critical breeding habitats, such as the fairgrounds fields. Members of the commission are also concerned about the impact on wetlands, the available parking capacity, the cost of the project and a lack of adherence to the town’s Fairgrounds Management Plan and its guidance for proposed developments.

The commission also cited possible uses for the concession stand, water and electricity that are not consistent with other uses of the fairgrounds.


In their report, members of the commission said using an existing school field would have less of an environmental impact and cost less.

Town Manager Eric Dyer said the elementary school is on a fairly inaccessible road near the outskirts of town. He said it might not have adequate parking, and the creation of a community recreation area there could be an inherent conflict with existing school activities.

“It’s just not the right spot, and we have a a location in town that’s next to a wonderful trail network and could add value by connecting the existing baseball field to make a much larger multifunction space,” Dyer said. “It’s not that we didn’t look at that as an option. We did, but it’s just that it was a very poor choice.

“Beyond the fact that we don’t own that property, and we’d have to find some way to have a management agreement, I’m not even sure if we could put a regulation size softball field there.”

The Readfield Fairgrounds property off Church Road, which could be the site of new athletic fields, features hiking trails and the Keene Community Recreational Park ball field. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dyer said the project would not be a major athletic complex. Instead, he said it would be more of a community park, adding there is existing habitat for wildlife and the town is working to mitigate the environmental impact.

“In my view, it’s a very, very necessary community project,” he said. “The pandemic has taught us that outdoor recreation in our community is very important.”


Hunter said the commission is also concerned about PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” which could be brought in with soil used to flatten the field area.

“The town has agreed to sample the soil for PFAS,” Hunter said, “even though it’s a very difficult compound to sample for.”

The project was initially proposed about a year ago, and Hunter said part of a compromise reached between the town and commission stipulates the softball field would be rotated to preserve half of the grassland habitat. The rotation, Hunter said, would also put the field on flatter ground, meaning less fill would be needed.

The Readfield Trails Committee has agreed not to take a formal position on the athletic complex because members of the commission have differing viewpoints on the proposal.

“We decided to leave it up to each trails committee member to advocate on their own as they see fit,” said Robert Peale, chairman of the committee.

Peale said he supports the proposed project and location.


“I think it’s the right location, personally, because of the fact that it’s near the school, the beach and the town center,” Peale said. “It’s as close to being a true neighborhood than anywhere else in Readfield in terms of population density. Readfield has other neighborhoods, but they’re much more spread out.”

The project has been estimated to cost between $500,000 and $700,000, which would be paid over 20 years through a municipal bond. Dyer said the $500,000 estimate jumped to $700,000, with engineers citing increasing costs, including fuel.

The question on the town meeting warrant asks voters if they want to raise up to $500,000 on the proposed project, which would cover the bulk of the cost.

The Readfield Fairgrounds property off Church Road, which could be the site of new athletic fields, features hiking trails and the Keene Community Recreational Park ball field. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dyer said the Land and Water Conservation Fund might offer up to a 50% matching grant, and if the question were approved, it would show other grant-making agencies the town has its matching funds in hand and has made a strong commitment to the project.

Voters are also expected Tuesday to decide on a proposed agreement with Axiom Technologies. If approved, the town would enter into a two-year construction contract and an operating contract — with an initial term not to exceed 12 years — to create and run a municipally owned fiber to the premises network, which would offer high-speed internet to every home and business in Readfield.

The town would use $135,770 in federal pandemic relief funds and up to $4,864,230 from a previously approved 20-year municipal bond to complete the project.


Residents have already approved allowing the town to raise up to $5 million for high-speed fiber internet during a special town meeting last November.

Dyer said the town is approaching this as a public-private partnership, meaning the town would pay for the network in the same way it pays for roads. As a result, residents who wish to sign up would be paying about two-thirds of the overall cost for service.

Proposed rates would range from $40 a month for 100 Mbps symmetrical service to $140 per month for 1 Gbps service.

Dyer said while many residents have access to the internet, most in town have connection speeds that are much slower than 100 Mbps, which the state is beginning to use as a threshold for reliable internet service.

Because so many residents have slow connection speeds, the town would likely be eligible for grant funding to help offset some of the costs, according to Dyer.

Residents are also being asked to elect two Select Board members to three-year terms. Incumbent Kathryn Woodsum-Mills is running against challengers Robert Bittar, Steve DeAngelis and Eric Johnson.

And in the race for the Regional School Unit 38 board of directors, Cristobal Alvarado, Peter Bickerman, Travis Frautten and Rebecca Lambert are vying for one three-year term on the board, while voters can also nominate write-in candidates to fill a one-, two- and three-year term on the school committee.

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