Group aims to expand Founders Park

By Christine Simmonds | Jan 07, 2020
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Founders Park in Union

Union — An online group known as the Friends of Founders Park is collecting pledges for the purchase of a property abutting Founders Park in Union. Their goal is to donate the land back to the town for an expansion of the small, historic park.

The property, located at 11 Browns Lane, was privately owned until the Town of Union foreclosed on it in 2019 due to unpaid taxes.

Selectman John Shepard confirmed, “The town of Union did acquire this property at Brown’s Lane after many years of neglect, accumulated trash and vacancy left it quite uninhabitable.” He added, “The house and garage were condemned and dangerous, so the town had to demolish the buildings and clear the land... There was an astonishing amount of trash.”

Union Public Works completed the demolition and cleanup in summer 2019, and Selectmen had to decide what to do with the property next. After what Shepard described as “much discussion” and feedback from the public, Selectmen “decided that it was their responsibility to the taxpayers to sell the property in order to recoup the costs of demolition and clearing.”

One member of the public who gave feedback about the property was Bill Stinson, owner and operator of The Pour Farm brewery in Union. Stinson and others went to Selectmen and suggested that the town add the land to Founders Park.

The land is directly abutting the park, and according to the Friends of Founders Park website, it “provides additional views of the mill pond, a little bit of woods, and the potential for safe, off-highway parking.”

Stinson pointed out that, currently, people have to park in the street to access the park, which is not always the safest option.

Stinson said that adding this parcel of land to Founders Park would be a “big benefit” to the town. It would almost triple the current park. The size of the park, with the extra land, would go from 0.28 acres to 0.78 acres.

Stinson began a campaign to purchase the park privately and donate it back to the town. He looked into online fundraising programs such as GoFundMe and Kick Starter, but felt they did not meet his needs.

Stinson said he did not want many people giving small amounts of money, but instead a few people giving large amounts. He has set up a system through the Pour Farm website to take pledges. Stinson said so far he has “a few thousand” dollars in pledges. People have promised $50, $500, and $1,000 at a time. The page has been active for little more than two weeks.

There are still some challenges to face once the funds have been raised and the land purchased, though. Union Town Manager Jay Feyler pointed out that, “the voters need to accept the property... and there will be some cost to the town for maintenance.” Feyler explained that “there would have to be an article on the annual town meeting warrant specifying the acceptance and terms of the gift.”

In addition to the vote, the Selectmen are concerned about the loss of tax revenue from the land, the costs of upkeep for the expansion of the park, and the potential for problems with “loitering after dark.” Shepard pointed out that, “we contend with these issues at another town property at Seven Tree Pond – Ayer Park – and have recently had to hire an attendant to monitor conditions and behavior... during the summer.”

Stinson contended that these costs would be very small when compared to the benefits of expanding the park. “The average additional tax burden is… 49 cents per taxpayer” based on the 2018-2019 tax bill.

He also added that, “the cost of tending an extra 0.5 acres in an existing park wouldn't be much either – plus, there's already demonstrated interest from neighbors and friends willing to invest time to keep it nice.”

Shepard and Feyler agreed that Stinson’s math was likely correct, and there would be many benefits to expanding the park. However, it would be hard to pinpoint exact costs of an expansion as “the cost to maintain would be based on a variety of factors” and Stinson is, “just using the land value and not the value of a house or other improvements,” when calculating the loss of incoming taxes.

For more information on Founders Park, or to make a pledge, visit thepourfarm.com/browns.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jan 07, 2020 11:51

With increased tourism, the park makes sense. Tourism brings in dollars to the town and when word spreads about the beauty and serenity of the park, more people will use the park. What with increased housing projects going on, little land will be left for the average "Joe" wanting to experience nature. This is a small way of preserving nature for future generations. It is a N0-Brainer!

 



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