The Camden Select Board voted unanimously on Aug. 18 to accept Starfire Skate Park from the Penobscot Bay YMCA and keep it in Camden.

The Y is selling the Teen Center building and property behind it, where the skate park is located, to Atlantic Academy, Inc., a school for at-risk youth. Atlantic Academy has no plans to keep the skate park.

Town Manager Audra Caler told Board members that the Y is willing to give the park back to the town. She said if the town accepts it, it will be for the second time.

"If the Select Board is interested in moving forward with options of locating it in Camden, luckily we have people like Rick Seibel who remember when the town accepted it from MBNA, and stored it at the wastewater treatment plant." After that, the town gave the skate park to the Y.

The Parks and Recreation director and staff have looked at it, and it is built so it can be dissembled and reassembled, she said.

The vote to keep the skate park took place about two hours into the meeting.

Thirteen people, mostly skateboarders, posted comments showing strong support for keeping the skate park in Camden, on the town's YouTube channel while the meeting was being livestreamed.

Another 34 people emailed the town in support of keeping the skate park, with one person expressing concerns about the facility. The majority of letter-writers are parents who support the activity and concerned adults in the community. A few letters were written by young teenagers who skateboard.

Gideon Baeza of Camden asked to comment during the Board discussion.

The skate park means a lot to the community revolving around it, which would love for it to stay in Camden, he said. Baeza supports resources being raised to build a new skate park, as the half pipe hasn't been taken care of in the past 10 years. He said a more public location would be positive for the community, especially now with COVID-19.

Board member Marc Ratner said "Obviously this is a very important town issue. I've read every letter." He commented on how there were more letters on keeping the skate park than he had seen on any other issue.

Board Vice Chairwoman Alison McKellar said recent events have shown her how popular the skate park is within the community. She was particularly impressed by letters from girls who used the skate park.

"Our goal can be to try to make it better than ever, and more accessible than ever," she said.

 

The board discussed the possible temporary relocation of the Starfire Skate Park to 4 Knowlton St., a parking lot next to the Teen Center, now leased by the town, which was originally the park's home.

Town staff will look more closely at what moving the structure entails, and a decision will be made at an upcoming meeting, according to Caler.

Route 52 parking

No members of the public attended the hearing on changing a traffic ordinance to remove parking restrictions on Route 52 near an informal swimming area in Lake Megunticook.

Board Chairman Bob Falciani, McKellar and Board member Jenna Lookner supported the removal of restrictions to parking on Route 52. Ratner and Board member Taylor Benzi also supported removal of restrictions, but first wanted a plan designating parking spaces and measures for pedestrian safety, discussed at a prior meeting.

Benzi suggested the board vote to remove the restriction on parking effective in December, to give time to ensure the area would be safer for pedestrians and vehicles. The idea did not gain traction with a majority of Board members.

Caler said the risk to pedestrians crossing the road to swim was low. Benzi countered that, asking how she can assess what the risk will be with cars parked along the road.

When Police Chief Randy Gagne was asked if he had any comments, he said he had provided his comments at a prior meeting.

Gagne provided written comments at the July 7 board meeting. He wrote that parking has been prohibited for decades on Route 52 due to the width of the road. Prior to that, there were problems with vehicles parked in the roadway, which combined with the 40-mile per house speed limit and unrestricted crossing of the road by pedestrians, created dangerous situations. At the same time, he offered information that there are already four parking spaces in the area and the potential for more, while suggesting the town first consult with the Department of Transportation.

The vote to remove parking restrictions, to take place immediately, was approved with Falciani McKellar and Lookner in favor and Benzi and Ratner opposed.

Other business

The Board voted to approve victualer’s licenses for Camden Sea Dog Brewing Co., Zoot Coffee, Oliver’s Bistro and Diedre’s Roadside.

A vote on a new Animal Control Policy for stray cats was tabled until the board could invite the executive director of P.A.W.S. animal shelter to a meeting for discussion.

The situation brought to the board's attention by Lookner is that Camden's Animal Control no longer includes cats. She learned this when a stray cat hit by a car was in her driveway, and Animal Control would not pick it up.

Caler reviewed the background behind the current practice, saying that when Animal Control brings an animal to a shelter, the town is charged for its treatment if the owner cannot be located. She said dog owners are easy to locate due to registration laws. Cat owners are not as easy to locate, plus there are stray cats. In the past, the town has incurred unexpected costs after bringing cats to the shelter, she said.

The board approved the sale of Snow Bowl Early Bird Season passes beginning Sept. 1. The discounted passes are usually sold starting Oct. 1.

An agenda item to approve Pop Up businesses to sell their products at the Saturday Camden Farmers Market was shelved. Parks Department Assistant Director Holly Edwards said the three vendors who sell their products at 116 Washington Street on Fridays are not interested in Saturdays. McKellar asked that the board approve Pop Ups for Saturdays in case new vendors are interested, and simplify the licensing and insurance requirements.