Officials in a coastal Maine town are raising concerns that traffic to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ annual Gardens Aglow holiday light show is negatively affecting residents’ quality of life.
The concerns from Edgecomb arise as Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ $30 million expansion sits in limbo after a Boothbay appeals board rescinded a permit, which spurred the gardens to file a lawsuit against the town.
After discussing the potential impact of some 70,000 people traveling through Edgecomb over the course of two months, the Edgecomb Board of Selectmen earlier this month asked Fire Chief Roy Potter to return with more specific information about the resources used responding to increased automobile crashes and other emergencies during the two months Gardens Aglow is open.
“It just makes sense,” Jack Sarmanian, chairman of the Edgecomb Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday. “Last year they had over 75,000 people at the show. I think we’re wondering what is the wear and tear on the community in terms of roads, fire department and things that might be related.”
Routes 1 and 27 are the main roads in Edgecomb, and the primary roads leading to Boothbay. Route 27 is a two-lane road in Edgecomb.
This year, 78,500 people attended Gardens Aglow, according to Kris Folsom, marketing director for the botanical gardens. That figure is 4.7 percent higher than last year’s, even though the display was closed for two nights due to cold weather.
Folsom said earlier this year she expected 98,000 visitors at the light display. She did not respond to other questions on Tuesday.
Edgecomb officials first raised concerns about traffic impacts when Potter mentioned to the board that a bus traveling to the light show this year went off the road.
“It wasn’t serious, and nobody was hurt, but the fire department had to evacuate the bus and transport people to the station to keep them warm ‘til the whole thing could get sorted out,” Selectman Ted Hugger said Tuesday. “We got to talking about what is the impact, if any, of all this additional activity. Certainly there’s increased traffic on the roads, and we’ve had some accidents.”
Hugger said the topic arose during discussion of the town’s budgeting.
“When we have to provide emergency services, there is a cost to the town,” he said, and with “an uptick in accidents and fender benders,” the costs increase.
Sarmanian said selectmen would consider “maybe creating a dialogue” with CMBG to find out their anticipated growth with the expansion.
“We want to try to understand if there’s anything that might be done or any agreement,” he said. “To see if there’s the potential of adding to the support of the community where we support them.”
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