I am part of the Friends of the Thomaston Green. I am writing this letter to share additional details I have not yet seen in print. There are three primary points I want cover.

First, the entire “citizens initiative” started with a group of town residents, “The Friends,” discussing how we could help improve Thomaston’s prosperity by attracting more people to our town. We began by creating a design for a community park on the land where the prison used to be, based on the fact prior commercial offerings for the green have been rejected by the voters. Our read was voters are more interested in preserving the green, so why not propose to develop it in such a way that can bring in more people and consequently more revenue?

The second, and perhaps most important point I want to make here, is the design “The Friends” came up with included a fire station, as shown in the illustration provided.

The third point I want to make is there is precedent for fire stations being an integral part of town park infrastructure and, as such, I see no reason why a fire station is precluded from being a part of the green if the citizens vote yes on 4 and no on 3, as explained below.

The 15-plus acres of green space referred to here as the “Thomaston Green” is an eye-catching gateway to our beautiful little town. “The Friends” wanted to help citizens imagine it as a community gathering place where festivals, concerts, reunions, weddings, movie nights, and holiday events might take place. All of these events can generate revenue directly for the town but also indirectly in the way the Lobster and Blues Festivals benefit all the businesses in Rockland, for example.

“The Friends” discussed and incorporated many possible features into our model design — a farmers market, pavilion, skating rink, swing sets, flower garden, and, yes, a fire station. We paid for a professional architectural drawing to illustrate the design and then the drawing was immediately delivered to the Select Board so they would understand it was a gift. We did not want them hearing about it through the grapevine — our intention was to clearly present this gift in hopes it would inspire others to get their creative juices flowing and add their own ideas for an ideal community gathering space.

We were all disheartened when the drawing was met with secret town meetings we were not invited to and then a public hearing where members of the select board publicly laughed at the design. They were focused on who we were and what we were up to without embracing the spirit of what we had contributed. So we pivoted and decided to go directly to the voters with a citizen’s initiative.

It was too complicated to ask the town to vote on a particular vision, nor did we have an interest in telling the citizens exactly what their park should look like, so we started with a simple initiative to save the green from housing developments or any kind of commercial buildings. This initiative resulted in Article 4 for the upcoming election: “Shall the Town vote to permanently dedicate the 15.6-acre parcel known as the “Thomaston Green” for use as a public park for recreational and community events and related infrastructure, said parcel being more precisely identified as “Parcel One” in a Quitclaim Deed recorded in the Knox County Registry of Deeds at Book 3547, Page 48?”

Note the inclusion of the term “park infrastructure,” which may include a broad set of community service buildings, parking, a snack stand for a skating rink and restrooms. A fire station would also fit because it would be for community service. Fire stations are not commercial entities like for-profit health care facilities or retail stores, and park infrastructure buildings also do not include places meant to be used as primary housing. There is, however, strong precedent for fire stations being part of public parks since they are places for citizens to gather and safety is critical to parks remaining desirable to all.

Some examples that set precedent: Yarmouth, Maine, has a park that houses a fire station. The park is used to have bean suppers to raise funds for the fire station. Brilliant. I would personally love to see such events in an official Thomaston park. A fire station also abuts the Bar Harbor Village Green. In North Texas there is an amazing public park that is literally called Fire Station Park because it is all built around that community service.

0When I was a young child we had a park next to the fire station and every summer I attended a day camp in the park. On the last day of camp, we would get to go for a ride around the block on one of the fire trucks. It was a highlight of my year every year and I would delight in living once again in another town where such a tradition could take place.

I am not a lawyer but I have worked with many excellent lawyers — enough to know lawyers give opinions based on interpretation of law and prior precedent. Both lawyers at the town hearing issued opinions on the fly without the benefit of time to investigate existing precedent.

There is solid precedent for fire stations being a part of park infrastructure. Again, a fire station was always a part of the vision of the Friends gift to the town of Thomaston. I am not aware of any surveys or investigations into where a new fire station might be housed. It is, however, my understanding there is a desperate need for a new one though, and if the result of a survey found the only logical place for a new fire station is Route 1 as part of the proposed park, I don’t know anyone who would disagree with the decision to build one there.

There are many more points to cover regarding Article 4, however I will just close by saying it seems there are other places for housing and health clinics in Thomaston. The newly listed 11 acre plot of land on Dexter Street might be an ideal location for a new health clinic and I would be delighted to have this addition to our community as long as it isn’t on the green space that is the gateway to town.

I am also 100% in support of both workforce and affordable housing in Thomaston. There are public funds available to refurbish existing buildings and a number of buildings in Thomaston might qualify for such funds. It seems to me it is possible to have a park, more and better housing and new healthcare facilities without sacrificing rare green space because it is the easy button.

Please vote Yes on No. 4 and No on No. 3.

For additional information on the citizen’s initiative visit thomastongreen.com or send an email to thomastongreen@gmail.com.

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