Waldoboro will discuss several options for recreation facilities in coming months to return to good standing on a federal grant received in the 1970s for its A.D. Gray School site.
Marcus Benner, Waldoboro recreation director, and Max Johnstone, planning and development director, informed the Waldoboro Select Board about the situation and the town’s options at its Tuesday, Nov. 8 meeting.
The town received a grant to build the tennis courts at A.D. Gray School in 1973 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal project administered by the National Park Service. The terms of that grant required the site be available for public recreation forever.
As the tennis courts at A.D. Gray have aged and become unusable, according to Benner, the town has fallen out of good standing with the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Existing sites used by the town for recreation, such as the recreation center, would not be eligible for the transfer of obligation. Once Waldoboro remedies the situation, it will be eligible for new grant opportunities again through the fund.
Benner and Johnstone identified two options for the town, and a third was suggested by the select board.
First, Waldoboro could take ownership of John Foster Little League Field on Kalers Corner Road, across from Miller School.
The field is currently owned and administered by Medomak Valley Little League. Benner said the organization has been struggling to meet upkeep needs and would like Waldoboro to take ownership. The Little League would continue to use the field under town ownership.
If Waldoboro acquired Foster Field, it would relieve obligation to the grant. The terms of the grant do not require Waldoboro maintain a tennis court specifically, only a public recreation site, which the existing facilities at Foster Field fulfill.
The transfer of obligation for the restrictive covenant would require a Yellow Book appraisal before moving forward.
Some initial upkeep projects would need to be completed, according to Benner, including shingles for the dugouts, a roof for the concession stand, and a new backstop.
In a regular year without any projects, he estimated the field’s acquisition would increase recreation department’s budget $2,500 annually. Benner said the transfer of obligation progress would take about two years.
A second option is construction of a new recreation facility on other parcels at A.D. Gray. Volunteers of America purchased the school building in June 2022 to redevelop into affordable senior housing, but Waldoboro still owns seven acres of the site. New tennis courts or other recreation facilities could be constructed there, Benner said, although it would require the town contract for a park design.
The town could apply for another Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to move the tennis courts or make other use of the field there, Benner said.
A third option is construction of new facilities on the former Sylvania plant site on Friendship Road. Some residents have suggested redevelopment of the lot into a recreation area, select board members said.
The Nov. 8 town ballot featured a survey asking residents for their ideas about future uses of the Sylvania site. The Sylvania Development Committee will review responses at a Monday, Nov. 14 meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the town office. Results of the survey will help to guide decisions about the future of the site, including the possibility of redevelopment, according to Johnstone.
Benner said that, whichever path the town chooses, he would like to pursue development of combination pickleball and tennis courts in town. He hears regular requests from residents, but held off on starting work on A.D. Gray because of its ongoing ownership uncertainty, settled after many years when Volunteers of America purchased the building in June 2022.
“I wasn’t sure if we’d fix the courts and then the next day it would be sold to somebody else,” he said.
When he began his position six years ago, an estimate for a new tennis court on the site was $100,000; he expects the figure to be higher today.
Benner suggested the town could pursue the Foster Field first, making it eligible for more funding opportunities in the construction of pricier tennis court construction.
According to Johnstone, Land and Water Conservation Fund grants are available up to $500,000 at a one-to-one match from town funds.
The select board requested more detailed financial information for all three options. Ongoing work on the redevelopment of the Sylvania site may change its viability as well, select board members said.
Any action suggested by the select board would come before voters in a town meeting.
The Waldoboro Select Board will next meet on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. in the town office.