Waldoboro is considering whether to stop leasing its blueberry fields at Quarry Hill Farm to commercial harvesters and instead make the fields available to residents for blueberry picking.
“I think it is a really nice thing to do for our public and I think this is something they will really enjoy,” Town Manager Julie Keizer told the board of selectmen July 28.
The town organized a day for residents to pick blueberries Saturday, July 25. The most recent lease of the fields, to Union’s Coastal Blueberry Service Inc., recently expired.
Keizer said the town used its Facebook page to publicize the July 28 event, which drew a good turnout. “We were able to open up 320 acres to blueberry picking and that was a huge hit with the public,” she said.
The event did not allow raking, a technique commercial harvesters use. Residents had to bring their own containers for berries.
“People were very thrilled to have that opportunity,” Keizer said.
Keizer said she reviewed the last lease agreement with Peg Tynan, the town’s finance director.
“Over the last 10 years of the lease we received about $2,000, which is between $400 or $500 every so many years. It wasn’t an every year thing,” Keizer said.
Boulders would need to be removed for the property to realize its full commercial potential, according to Keizer, citing information from Coastal Blueberry Service.
“One of their issues with utilizing that blueberry field is there are a lot of boulders,” she said.
“Looking at that and seeing what Saturday was like, I don’t know if it is worth leasing it out. … I think for our public, for $200 per year, it is worth $200 to allow our residents to have a place to pick blueberries,” Keizer said.
Waldoboro Public Works Director John Daigle “said we could arrange for it to be brush-hogged every couple of years to keep it healthy and sustainable,” Keizer said.
According to the town’s Facebook page, a conversation easement held by Edgecomb-based Midcoast Conservancy protects the property from development.
Keizer suggested that the board think about the property’s future and revisit the matter at a future meeting.