Bridgton board reconsiders use of BRAG fields

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Bridgton Selectmen agreed to reconsider its earlier decision banning the recreation department from scheduling games on the ballfields at the Kendal and Anna Ham Recreation Complex.

On April 9, selectmen voted not to have the town’s teams use the fields, because they were concerned that the grass hadn’t taken sufficient hold and the fields could be damaged. If damage occurred, the board reasoned, the town would be left footing the bill for repairs once the town takes over ownership of the complex.

But on Tuesday, Selectman Doug Taft, who supported the ban on play, paved the way for reversal of the vote by making a motion to reconsider the earlier vote, “just to get it on the table for discussion,” he said.

Taft ended up voting once again against having recreation teams use the fields, along with Selectman Bernie King, but they were outvoted by Selectmen Woody Woodward, Paul Hoyt and Bob McHatton.

Tuesday’s reconsideration followed an appeal made by BRAG President Bill Macdonald, who met with Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz and Taft after the April 9 vote.

The turnaround came after Macdonald pledged to be responsible for any damage occurring to the fields from this summer season of play.

“It was a big disappointment to us,” MacDonald said of the board’s vote not to have Bridgton baseball and softball teams use the fields this summer. “It’s ready, it’s in fabulous shape,” he said of the complex, located off the Portland Road on Brag Way.

Macdonald said the board made its decision on April 9 “based on information that is not necessarily true. The fields are ready.”

Concerns were expressed April 9 that there were unaddressed drainage issues at the fields and that the grass hadn’t yet developed a strong enough root system to withstand a summer of play.

BRAG’s Board of Directors have scheduled a June 1 grand opening at the complex and have made arrangements for two soccer camps to be held there this summer. The first camp will be a British Soccer Camp from July 22–26, and the second will be a more competitive Brazilian Soccer Camp on Aug. 11.

Macdonald said Larry Carter has begun scheduling games there this summer as part of the Cal Ripkin Baseball League involving teams from Harrison, Sebago, Naples and other Lake Region towns.

Taft said he felt a June 1 opening day was too early to be testing the fields. “I have softened somewhat, but I still have grave concerns about the fields. I don’t feel it’s right to put those fields in danger. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Recreation Director Tom Tash, who did need to do some rescheduling of recreation programs after the April 9 vote, said he hasn’t yet sent out the softball schedules, so there is still time to switch the schedule to allow the BRAG fields to be used.

Said Berkowitz, “I don’t want to treat the programs in recreation like a yo-yo. The motion (to allow the BRAG fields to be used by Bridgton teams) doesn’t require it, it allows it.”

Resident Glen “Bear” Zaidman said the right-of-way into the complex needs grading. “It’s pretty rough,” he said. Zaidman also mentioned structural problems with some of the dugouts that have occurred over the winter.

MacDonald said he was at the complex a few weeks ago and “Basically, it’s bone dry,” in response to some concerns that the fields were still wet. He said the irrigation system at the complex “is working flawlessly.” He added, “We won’t let it get overrun.”

Selectman Woody Woodward noted, “Regardless of what Bridgton does, those fields will be used.”

 

 

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