Sunday, May 11, 2014

Town of Raymond looks to use same program as Camp Hinds to develop town property

The Town of Raymond found out on Tuesday that the plan they had for a community and recreation park was not going to happen because the 83-acre property off Egypt Road on Farwell Drive, which is owned by the town, is an environmental oasis for beavers, salamanders, vernal pools, fresh water streams and more.
“There’s always that twinge of disappointment, but we’ll take the bad and make it good,” said the project leader Danielle Loring, who works in the code enforcement office. 

The project was a large scale plan that was one of the many items the town planned to have the military housed at Camp Hinds in Raymond as a part of the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program (IRT) work on. Through the IRT, groups of military personnel will come from all over the country to work in Raymond in two week rotations. Projects will be done based on what specialty the unit that is in town that week has. Raymond is working in conjunction with Camp Hinds, a Boy Scout property, which will be housing the soldiers. 

“This is a good opportunity over the next five years to develop town-owned property,” said Loring.
The town made a quick decision last year to get approval and apply to have the IRT complete projects for the town while they were housed in the community. The selectmen approved money to do an environmental study on the Farwell site, which contains the former Raymond landfill. Other projects that were approved were to have a pole barn built for storage, a sight-distance project done at the public safety building to make the building more visible and mobility for the trucks entering and exiting, dredging of fire ponds, and erecting a tower for public safety communications. “The town already had a need,” said Loring. “This is a huge savings. We pay for engineering and materials.” 

Although the recreation park won’t happen the estimated costs were that it would have only cost around $782,000 compared to the estimated $4.3 million to do it on their own without the military help and in-kind donations.

When asked about a plan B for the field project, Loring and town manager Don Willard admitted that they didn’t have anything concrete, however they are now looking at the fields on Mill Street and land on Patricia Avenue for possible development.    
Mill Street fields

“It was a bit of a surprise. It’s unfortunate,” said Willard. “But, not wholly unexpected.” 

Loring will present the findings of the environmental report at the May 13 selectmen meeting. “We will look to reevaluate projects that were put aside or conservation efforts,” she said. “We are taking the news and making it positive.” Loring hopes to make the area a conservation area with hiking trails and a place where people can go to see wildlife, though no plans have been made at this point. 
“It would have been an important community debate,” Willard said. He mentioned that the landfill has monitoring wells and there hasn’t been any trouble on the Farwell Drive property. “From a natural environment standpoint, it’s working.” That property has begun healing itself and the wildlife is thriving there.

“Danielle should be praised and congratulated to have gone forward,” said Willard. To have coordinated all of this in six months is laudable, Willard said. “Government is not known for going quickly,” he said. Everyone from staff, engineers and town officials should be congratulated, he added. 

Willard hopes that someone will step forward and donate property to the town for a recreation field like the one that was planned.

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