At a Feb. 16 meeting, five members of China’s Thurston Park Committee talked mostly about money to repair and improve the entrance road and trails and add amenities.
Committee chairman Jeanette Smith reported that China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee had cut the request for $44,000 in 2023-24 for trail work in the park to $25,000 (see the Feb. 16 issue of The Town Line, p. 3) and had asked for a revised application indicating how the money would be spent. The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for March 8.
Thurston Park Committee member Steve Nichols protested that getting estimated costs to fix, maintain and improve trails would be impossible with snow on the ground.
As of Feb. 16, Smith was still waiting to hear whether Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money would be available to repair the entrance road, washed out in the Dec. 23 storm.
People who want to snowshoe, ski or walk can still get into the park, Smith said; but until the washed-out road is fixed, access for work crews is difficult. The Yorktown Road coming from Albion south into the park goes down a steep hill, with parking areas at the top and bottom; the worst washout is at the bottom of the hill.
Smith said with spring work pending, the committee has available a little over $6,000 in the current year’s budget; a little over $32,000 in TIF money, intended for a storage building; and a little over $9,000 in the park reserve fund.
Nichols would like to see spring maintenance work done by Friday, May 26, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend.
Thurston Park is listed on some Maine trail websites. Committee members discussed more ways to publicize it.
Options for long-term funding they mentioned included creating a Friends of Thurston Park fund-raising organization; working with a land trust; or selling memberships or otherwise charging for use of the 400-acre parcel.
Possible future improvements include buying picnic tables and siting them not only in the picnic area, but at stopping places along trails; and installing a canoe rack at the pond, so repeat users would not have to bring their canoes in and out every time.
Another discussion topic was the role of the committee. Smith thinks the group should be advisory, and that town officials should find someone other than committee members to do trail maintenance work, outhouse cleaning, tree trimming and other physical labor.
Smith said she found one other Maine town with a large forested park: Shapleigh, in York County, has Williams Town Park, 300 acres with three miles of trails. (A 2018 description is on line on the mainebyfoot.com website, which also has a 2020 description of Thurston Park: almost 400 acres, 5.2 miles of trails and footpaths.)
The next Thurston Park Committee meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Match 16, in the portable building behind the China town office. New committee members are welcome; those interested can contact the town office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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