Plans are evolving for a proposal to be presented to the town of Camden by a group formed to raise funds for a park on the tannery property.

The town is expected to soon issue a formal request for proposals to develop the property for a variety of uses, from commercial to recreational.

Proposals will be sought from businesses, nonprofit organizations, community groups, individuals or ad hoc organizations, according to a June 16 Select Board discussion.

Tom Resek, a volunteer with Friends of the Park, sees options for a variety of recreational elements, including pickleball courts for all ages, a bike track and a playground for younger children, a basketball court and a permanent home for the Camden Farmers' Market.

The Friends have long supported a playground for younger children and home for the Farmers' Market. The newer recreational uses come from brainstorming with community members involved in recreation and from observations of how people have been using the town-owned lot.

Resek, also a member of the town's Parks and Recreation Committee, has learned there is a lot of interest in pickleball courts, from Craig Wilson, Executive Director of Midcoast Recreation Center in Rockport, where pickleball lessons and court rentals are offered.

Kids on bicycles have been showing up by themselves or with parents or grandparents. Youngsters were riding over a large hill of fill on the site, which was then fenced off, and had used some of the fill to build small ramps.Talking to John Anders, a leader and trail builder in the Midcoast mountain-biking community, has confirmed for Resek that a slightly hilly section of the tannery property is a good place for a bicycle skills or pump track for younger children.

There is a paved area, where people used to play basketball when there were hoops up, said Resek, who lives near the tannery property.

Dog walking is another popular use of the property and the Riverwalk, which boarders the property's west side. While the Riverwalk is not part of the town-owned lot that will be developed, it is popular feature that draws people to the property. The Riverwalk is located in a conservation easement under the stewardship of Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and cannot be developed.

The Friends of the Park proposal may also include making Tannery Park the permanent home of the Starfire Skate Park if there is interest from the skateboarding community, according to Resek.

The Skate Park is in the process of being moved from behind the Teen Center on Knowlton Street to the parking lot next door. The move is due to the pending sale by the Penobscot Bay YMCA of the Teen Center property. On Aug. 18, the Select Board accepted the Skate Park from the Y, after skateboarders petitioned to keep the park in Camden.

Friends of the Park evolved from a town-led Tannery Workgroup, tasked with building consensus on a plan for the uses of the property. The workgroup, led by former Town Manager Roger Moody, wrapped up its process in 2016, after it presented a plan and drawings to the Select Board for a home for the Farmer's Market, a children's playground and an area set aside for some type of development.

The original focus of the Friends group was to raise funds for the playground and park. It raised nearly $3,000, which is held in a town account for the playground, and a Friends of Tannery Park bank account. It also had $11,000 in pledges, and a long list of names of people who signed an interest list in becoming members or helping with the park, Resek said.

The group's fundraising paused two years ago, while waiting for environmental work on the property, planned by the town, to take place, according to Resek.

Tannery Park is named for tanneries that once operated there, and left chemical contamination. A major cleanup of an area near the Rawson Avenue side of the property was completed in 2008.

Any further development at Tannery Park will be done in conjunction with remediation of low chemicals found in surface soils on other areas of the property during a 2016 environmental study. The chemicals types and amounts found are similar to what are found around asphalt parking areas throughout Camden, according to the study.

The study recommended covering existing surface soil with a combination of clean soil and landscaping. In 2018, the town applied for and received a federal Brownfields grant totaling $200,000 to pay the remediation and a community outreach effort.

The proposal from Friends of Tannery Park will match with the environmental study's recommendations, according to Resek.

Resurfaced existing paved areas will be used for pickle ball and basketball courts. Soil cover will be used for a new children's play area. The bike pump track can be created simply by mowing in the slightly hilly area, or using soil as cover and to build additional small hills. Soil and landscaping can also be used on the remainder of the acreage, where the Farmers' Market is located.

Resek said the town has about $150,000 remaining in the Brownfields grant, which can be used towards the costs of soil cover and repaving.

The group's proposal would seek cooperation of the Parks and Rec Department and involvement of town government. Resek said the Friends of the Park would "work to make it happen and fundraise, but it would be a town park."