Where are new park’s stewards?

By Gail Geraghty 

Staff Writer 

Bridgton Selectman Doug Taft just can’t understand it. Residents have said for years how much they wanted a downtown park, they spent their tax dollars to help buy the land and agreed to have the town take over ownership of Pondicherry Park.

Why is it, then, he said Tuesday, that only one person has offered to serve on a stewardship committee?

“I’m a little disappointed with the lack of applications,” said Taft, as the board prepared to interview the one candidate, Lega Medcalf, who responded to the ad seeking residents willing to serve on the Pondicherry Park Stewardship Committee. The ad began running a month ago, after the park was formally gifted to the town and a conservation easement was simultaneously granted to the Loon Echo Land Trust. LELT has led fundraising for the park project from its inception six years ago, in partnership with Lakes Environmental Association. LELT and LEA will each have one member on the committee; the town will have three, serving staggered terms of one, two or three years. The town will also appoint one resident as an alternate for a one-year term.

The Stewardship Committee’s job is an important one. It is charged with working with town departments on the maintenance and management of the property, which includes two entrance bridges and nearly three miles of walking trails. The committee will work to balance the park’s natural resources, including 5,000 feet of stream frontage, woodlands and floodplains, with recreational and educational resources, including a picnic pavilion, six picnic tables, signage and a dog loop trail that will eventually allow for bicycles.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said it was thought that the town would simply continue to accept applications until all four seats were filled. But Selectman Chairman Paul Hoyt said, “taking the first four that come along” was “not doing due diligence.” The town should select the most qualified individuals among a pool of candidates instead, he said.

The board agreed to extend the deadline for applications until late August, and asked Berkowitz to really “push,” in Taft’s words, to encourage interested residents to apply. An application form is available on the town’s website, www.bridgtonmaine.org

Hoyt added that “face to face” appeals are often best when inviting residents to come forward and serve; he said all of those in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting probably knew of someone who would be a likely candidate and could make a personal appeal.

Medcalf, who was at the meeting, said she was fine with waiting to be interviewed until such time that more applicants had applied to serve on the committee.

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