The year-long Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) for the Mt. Apatite Recreation Area, the adjoining Maine Army National Guard property and surrounding area has begun.
The JLUS is funded by a $149,998 Department of Defense, Office Economic Adjustment grant and is intended to ensure civilian growth and development are compatible with vital training, testing and other military operations.
The area includes the Auburn Suburban Little League ball fields and the popular Mt. Apatite Park, a 344-acre park that is covered with gemstone quarries and hiking, cross-country, snowmobile trails and residential areas.
The 154-acre Maine Army National Guard site is part of the existing ball fields (27 acres), and the remaining land use is used for training operations 270 days a year.
“As presently configured, soldiers and equipment have to drive through the Little League parking area to reach the training site,” said Jeff Squires, training site manager for the facility. “In addition, hikers and gem-hunters have to walk through the National Guard’s training site to reach the park area. This is clearly not an optimal situation and burdens use of the facility now and in the future.”
“The city is fortunate to be home to a National Guard training facility, active baseball and softball leagues, and a widely known and enjoyed park for gem hunting and all season recreation,” said Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonté. “Our challenge is that these assets are located in very close proximity.
“With these grant resources, we can effectively look at the best ways to ensure that Guard activities have minimal impacts on use of the park and Little League fields while also ensuring that users of recreational facilities do not unduly impact the future operation of the Guard training facility,” LaBonte said. “Both the City of Auburn and the Guard have an interest in working together to identify the best ways to reach our joint goals; hence we are conducting this Joint Land Use Study.”
“There will be multiple opportunities for the public to offer comments and suggestions to guide development of the plan,” said Kat Beaudoin, principal of Integrated Planning Solutions. “We join the City of Auburn and the Maine Army National Guard in inviting the public to participate in the development of the JLUS.”
The City of Auburn will maintain a web page of information, through the Planning and Development Department link, about the progress of the JLUS and draft materials and encourages the community to check the page often to monitor the progress of the study, become aware of opportunities for community planning sessions, and offer comments on the posted materials and draft plans.
In support of the project, an advisory policy committee has been appointed, made up of two residents, one local business owner and representatives of five community groups. The policy committee was scheduled to hold its first meeting on Wednesday, December 5 at the Maine Army National Guard Training Facility on Mount Apatite Road.
An eight-member Technical Committee of city staff and National Guard officials has also been appointed to assist the consultant, Integrated Planning Solutions of Augusta, collect information and guide development of a plan to balance uses at the Recreation Area and National Guard facility.
Policy Committee members include: Jeff Benson, representing Auburn Suburban Little League; Dana Little, representing Androscoggin Land Trust and Taylor Pond Association; Kevin Norcross, representing Auburn Snow Gypsies; Mike Peters, a local businessman (Mac’s Grill); Frank Piffath, an Auburn resident; Philip Savignano, representing the Auburn Recreation Committee; and Carol Segal, an Auburn resident and business owner.
At the December 5 meeting, the policy committee was slated to review the purpose and scope of the study, roles of the policy and technical committees, project time line and major project milestones; they were expected to refine the boundaries of the study area and establish a schedule of meetings.
The policy committee will also help the consultants and technical committee prepare and execute a public engagement strategy for the JLUS.