DOT picnic area may sprout natural resource center

Posted April 02, 2009, at 8:04 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11 a.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Town officials on Wednesday discussed the possibility of helping the local Natural Resource Education Center fulfill its plan to construct an information center on Route 15 next to the state-owned picnic area.

The center is vying for a state economic development grant to fund the project, which has been a goal of the nonprofit organization since the late 1990s. The information center, which likely would house the local chamber, would be a place in which visitors and residents could learn about the region’s natural resources and its distinct heritage.

The center’s directors would like to construct the building on the state-owned picnic area site, next to land the organization owns. The site has 16 parking spaces, a well and a partial septic system in place.

Town Manager John Simko said Wednesday that Eric Ward, the center’s president, learned that the Department of Transportation could not deed the property to the organization but could transfer it to the town. Ward wanted to know whether the town would be interested in having the state transfer the property to the town, Simko said. The town could then lease the land to the center, which would maintain it as a rest area, according to Ward.

“I thought I would propose it and see how it would go. What I’ve found out is if I don’t try or propose anything, nothing gets done,” Ward said by telephone Thursday.

He said the center is not looking to take it over this year, but does want to move forward if it receives the grant. “We need to do something in order to get more opportunities and show what we [the town] have and then maybe businesses would be interested in the region,” he said.

While the selectmen on Wednesday said they supported the project, the possibility of more expenses to the town caused them to hesitate on the proposed transfer.

“We can’t put the town in that position,” board Chairman Bonnie DuBien said Wednesday. She reminded the board that it had pinched pennies in order to reduce the municipal budget and had cut programs and projects because of the lack of finances.

Selectman Eugene Murray agreed. While the town needs to help move the project forward as best as it can, selectmen can’t “commit 50 cents to anybody because we just don’t have it,” he said. Murray said he and the other municipal officials had reduced town accounts so much that he was “ashamed.”

Simko said the town should help make the project a go, but added that any acceptance or transfer of land would have to be approved by residents at a town meeting.

“There’s a degree of frustration all around that it hasn’t happened,” he said of the project. Simko said he doesn’t see the project going forward unless the town backs it. He recommended — and the selectmen agreed Wednesday — to schedule a meeting with the center to discuss the project further.

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