Popularity of Yarmouth park fuels management concerns

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YARMOUTH — The Parks and Lands Management Committee is looking to the public for help in revising the Pratts Brook Park management plan.

The 230-acre park, which is accessible from a main entrance on North Road, and from Ledge and Berryfield roads, has been seeing a growing number of users over the past several years. According to Kyle Warren, the stewardship director of the Royal River Conservation Trust, the management plan needs to be updated to keep up with the increased use.

“The park’s popularity continues to grow and the park is ready for a new look at how to balance the often competing goals of the town’s most heavily used open space outside the village,” he said in a press release.

A meeting will be held Feb. 24 from 6-8 p.m. at the log cabin on Main Street so residents can give their input on how the management plan should be revised.

“We’re hoping people show up and tell us how they use the park and how they’d like to use it or see it used,” Warren said.

Warren said a quantitative use survey of the park hasn’t been done, but one may be completed in the future. He said the park’s popularity is due to its many offerings.

“It really is for everyone to use,” he said.

With 7.5 miles of trails, the park is popular among hikers and walkers year-round, along with snowshoers and cross-country skiers in the winter. There is also a nine-hole disc golf course near the park’s main entrance, which has brought many students to the park.

“The use has definitely changed due to the changes that have been made,” Warren said.

Another use of the park is hunting, which Warren said will be discussed at the Feb. 24 meeting.

“I expect that to be one of the most contentious issues at the meeting,” he said. “People are passionate about the proximity of hunting to recreational activity, rightfully so.”

He said another park activity to be discussed is bicycling, which is prohibited under the current management plan.

The plan was developed in 2000 by the Friends of Pratts Brook Park and the Yarmouth Conservation Commission with the assistance of local conservationists Terry DeWan and Gro Flatebo.

Since the plan was written, the park has undergone many changes, including new bridges and parking lots, adding signage and kiosks, and improving trails. According to Warren, the improvements were made possible in large part by Yarmouth Community Services. The municipal department has put $50,000 towards the park over the past six years.

Warren said the possibility of increasing the size of the park will be discussed at the meeting as well, but it’s still a distant idea.

“We’d like to get an idea from the town whether there’s energy to expand the park,” he said.

There are no adjacent parcels of land for sale, but Warren said it’s good to know whether residents would be interested in having a larger park if land were to become available.

After the Feb. 24 meeting, the information gathered will be compiled and a draft of a new management plan will be created, which residents are welcome to help with. Another public meeting will be held in the fall, with the goal of having the final draft of the plan completed by the end of the year.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Jane and Whit Gallagher, who were walking their dogs in Pratts Brook Park Monday, said they often walk the trails on the 230-acre Yarmouth property. Work is beginning on a new managment plan for the heavily used park.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • truther

    A few thoughts (I can’t make the meeting).

    1. There are 8 acres for sale directly south of the park, current asking price $250,000.

    2. The park desperately needs a permanent trash can or two at the main entrance parking lot.

    3. The grass paths cut into the southern field are wonderful, and it would be great if that could be made a more permanent thing.

    4. The park’s relatively un-landscaped appearance is a good thing.

    5. The less hunting the better as far as I’m concerned.