August 20, 2019
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Group seeking improvements to town playing fields hopes to attract new members, grants

Submitted image courtesy of Seacoast Online
Submitted image courtesy of Seacoast Online
The proposed redesign of Kittery's Emery Field from a local committee's master plan finalized in 2015.

KITTERY, Maine — The Town Council revisited an athletic fields master plan from 2015 during a workshop Monday, discussing priorities in field improvements and potential grant opportunities to assist with costs.

The Kittery Athletic Field Improvement Committee was formed in 2014 to look at solutions for the town’s few and overburdened public athletic fields, and helped to create the master plan, an inventory of current facilities and map of options on how to maintain, improve and use them more efficiently. Taken together, the master plan called for millions of dollars in improvements on fields throughout town.

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The plan helped kick-start the redesign project at Emery Field, which now has two new soccer fields, or one large lacrosse field, and is currently in use by springtime programs. Phase one of the redesign is complete, and the town is likely to apply in the fall for a National Park Service Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to help fund phase 2, which includes parking improvements.

“Applying for the second grant is finishing what we started,” said Tanya Marino, Athletic Field Improvement Committee member. “Being able to add the parking would sort of just finish off and tidy up and complete Emery.”

While Emery Field has held much of the town’s attention over the last few years, Town Council Chairwoman Judy Spiller said Monday’s workshop was “an opportunity to begin to get the process of planning back on track.” In attendance were Athletic Field Improvement Committee members Tony and Tanya Marino, and Kittery Community Center Director Jeremy Paul.

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While some town councilors expressed “sticker shock” with the proposed amount of investments in the master plan, Tanya Marino said it’s meant to be viewed as “implemented piece by piece by piece,” not all at once.

Councilor Ken Lemont said Memorial Field would be a priority for him, adding the Traip Academy Boosters are already interested in lighting the field.

“That field also has a potential to generate revenue for the town because you could have festivals there, concerts there,” he said.

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Councilor Charles Denault felt exploring grant options is the best way to invest in town fields, and Memorial Field was also at the top of the list for him.

But when it comes to the town field with the most foot traffic, Paul said, it’s the Shapleigh field.

Councilor Jeffrey Thomson said he viewed the field master plan as similar to the town’s comprehensive plan, which was just approved by voters last year. He thought the Town Council should formally accept the document.

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“Having Town Council approval to move forward would be great,” Paul said, noting committee members are aging out and it’s a “perfect time” to look at who can step up.

“We started this process when our kids were younger and they didn’t have fields to play soccer on,” Tanya Marino said. “We’re hoping to find new committee members to continue the sustainability and longevity.”

Thomson said there is a “whole new generation of parents” who likely aren’t aware of the field efforts, and he encouraged outreach in the schools.

For next steps, Town Manager Kendra Amaral said the town could explore potential grants for Memorial Field, and at a later meeting, Town Council would see an agenda item to formally accept the field master plan.


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