Intervale Fields & Recreation Area - Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Why does Gray-New Gloucester Little League need these fields?
Currently, the Gray-New Gloucester Little League simply doesn't have enough fields to practice and play as much as we'd like to, given the amount of players in our system. Even as we are, we're borrowing space from a number of places scattered about Gray and New Gloucester and we're not able to care for them and update them to contemporary standards as we'd like.
Currently we have:
8 teams of t-ball
6 teams of coach pitch
6 teams of player pitch baseball
2 teams of player pitch softball
5 teams of minors baseball
2 teams of minors sofball
4 teams of majors baseball
1 team of majors softball
2 teams of juniors baseball
1 team of seniors baseball
All told, we serve more than 300 kids in Gray-New Gloucester, from age 4 to 17, and we are the largest youth activity organization in Gray-New Gloucester. And we are down since the pandemic started. We are run entirely by volunteers and parents, and we see every day how difficult it is to get everyone to the right place at the right time. This project will add to our overall field base, will allow for a more consolidated and coordinated experience for kids and parents, and will allow us to get more kids on the field more often.
Further, our current fields offer poor service to the disabled and elderly among our community. We have heard on many occasions from parents and grandparents that our fields are inaccessible and difficult to navigate. This complex would allow for handicapped access and handicapped accessible bathrooms as well.
Some people have noted on our web site that there are many, many fields that GNGLL plays on. Many of those fields are in other towns and are "away" fields. Just as other towns have our fields listed for their parents to know where games will be. This doesn't mean they are "our" fields or that the Intervale fields will be "regional hubs"; it just means we play other towns. We go there, they come here.
Question: Why don't you just expand at Penny Road or Bennett Road or Back Rec, where you already have land?
Not all land is the same, obviously. The Penny and Bennett properties both would require a great deal more land clearing and moving to get to where we are with the Intervale site. One estimate we received said the same project as Intervale would be $2 million more expensive at Bennett. That's why we're selling the Bennett property to fund this Intervale project (and help preserve 180 acres at the same time!). Back Rec is not our land. We're doing this project completely without any taxpayer dollars. In fact, this will increase the value of the land at Intervale and result in more tax dollars being paid into town coffers by us, the Little League, which pays thousands each year in New Gloucester taxes.
If the town of New Gloucester would like to initiate some publicly funded project, we would of course be interested in that direction, but we haven't had any indication that's the case. To reiterate, we are not organized, run, or in any way affiliated with either Gray or New Gloucester. We are a private, non-profit enterprise.
When people say, "just do it at the fairgrounds!," we honestly don't know what to say. That's not our land, we don't have the ability to buy it, and lots of other people use that land for lots of other purposes.
Question: Why now? GNGLL has been around a long time!
Basically, we're taking advantage of an opportunity. We asked the Chandler family if we could purchase the land that the Intervale softball field sits on and they thought that would be fantastic - they love baseball and softball. However, they owned an additional 175 acres connected to the field and wanted to preserve the entire parcel for recreation and conservation. So, we partnered with Royal River Conservation Trust to take advantage of that opportunity and make sure we conserved the property while meeting a goal that we've had for a long time.
We've been working on this for a while! Please take a look at the timeline section of the web site. We first presented this to the Select Board as a basic idea in the summer of 2019, almost two years ago. Given encouragement, we continued to plan. We're now at a point where we're confident we can meet fundraising goals and accomplish this project, and so we've moved to that fundraising step.
But, there's still much work to be done! We don't plan to present an official proposal to the Planning Board until fall at the earliest.
Question: What impacts will the field complex have on the surrounding wetlands?
The only wetland impact currently planned is a walkway over a portion of wetlands connecting our fields. We are currently in the process of discussing the impacts with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and will be working with them to ensure our footprint is as small as possible while aiming to meet the needs of our community. Obviously, nothing will go forward without Maine DEP approval. We believe this will have an overall net positive impact on the wetlands and this project will preserve them for posterity along with a natural preserve that surrounds them for people to enjoy and appreciate them.
Question: What impacts will the ballfield complex have on the character of the Lower Village?
While certainly there will be some change, we feel it will be definitively for the better. A trailhead for hikers and birders will become more easily accessible, 180 acres of land will be preserved for recreation of all kinds (hiking, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, baseball, and softball), and parking will be removed from the road shoulder to a lot recessed off the road.
We are still working with the community on our parking design, but our preliminary parking design has two areas - one with some form of improvements (potentially a few paved spaces for handicap access and crushed stone or grading) and one on grass for larger events. Only 55 spaces will be marked and on most days, many will be free. Baseball and softball only run from May through October, so for at least half the year, the facility will serve as a park and trailhead.
Modern LED lighting, should that be a part of the final plan, turns on and off instantly, is incredibly efficient, and stays well contained to the areas intended to be lit, with little of the light bleed caused by older lighting types.
As there already is at the Intervale field, there will be nightly practices during the season, and we'll see a large portion of the communities of Gray and New Gloucester get together throughout Saturdays in the spring and early summer - usually spanning 6-8 weeks - for game days during the height of our season when most kids are playing. This coming together of the baseball and softball families every Saturday builds strong community bonds and is one of the most enjoyable aspects of youth sports. Throughout the rest of the year, usage is much lower as fewer players play in the summer and fall.
We believe this field complex, trail head, and wilderness preservation will be a tremendous benefit to many members of the community across all walks of life. It will truly create a wonderful, permanent recreation area in the heart of New Gloucester's Lower Village, something the town can build on for generations.
Question: Do you really feel this meets with the goals of the new draft comprehensive plan?
We do! The Intervale is most mentioned by townsfolk as being suited for agriculture/forestry. This plan allows us to preserve 170 acres of land, avoiding it being cut up into house lots or commercial use. This will fundamentally be a recreation area, where people play and enjoy the outdoors.
Yes, it technically "develops" the land for the two new ballfields, but it's hardly a group of warehouses or apartment building. It will still be fields of green that are well cared for and available for public enjoyment.
Further, "more recreation activities" was the second-most mentioned thing that townsfolk would like form New Gloucester services (after curbside pickup), and half of the town said they don't want any more services if it means more taxes. This is the best of both worlds: increased recreational opportunities at no taxpayer cost. When 32 groups of people were asked what they'd like more of in New Gloucester, the top two answers were "more to do" and "more recreational opportunities." The project clearly checks both of those boxes.
We also see a great deal of support for "eco-tourism" in New Gloucester. We're confident the 170-acre recreation area, with birdwatching, hunting, x-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and many other opportunities fits that well.
Finally, there is a note in the comprehensive plan that there is little walking and biking infrastructure. This project would officially preserve and protect a continuous walking path that would allow unfettered access across almost all of New Gloucester. This is very much in character with the recreation opportunities we want to encourage in the Intervale.
Question: Is this your final proposal?
Quite honestly, we don't know! This is a vision for a complex we've created that we think would offer an amazing opportunity to the town of New Gloucester and the kids who play in our league. When we look at it, we dream of kids running around to watch each other play, little kids on the playground, moms and dads and grandparents in the stands, community members looking over in curiosity as they access the trails and go birdwatching or hunting.
Would we love to have this proposal approved as-is? Of course we would!
But we understand that there is a process for approving any large project and we want to make sure it fits the character of the community, creates more good than harm, and has the support of the townspeople as a whole.
That's why we're going through the Planning Board process like any other project. We have checked in with the Select Board on multiple occasions, always received positive feedback, and we have reached out to a number of neighbors to get their feedback as well. Now we're looking for more feedback from the community, with things like guided walks of the land and this information site.
If it turns out that some of the features of the project are simply not supported by a majority of the town or the Planning Board or the DEP, we will of course make modifications to make sure it does. Not all of us have the same vision of what the "character" of New Gloucester is. We all use the town in different ways and are at different life stages with different expectations for New Gloucester's future.
But we are committed to be a net positive to the town we love so much and we will work very hard to ensure we reach a consensus for the best way forward.
Question: Isn't this land in a flood zone?
Question: What about this sound system we keep hearing about?
At our Newbegin facility in Gray, we're able to announce players as they come up to bat, play the National Anthem, and get the crowd going with some music sometimes. It's a lot of fun for the players and fans. We'd like to be able to provide this kind of fun for players and fans in New Gloucester.
Of course, we wouldn't be making noise outside of normal hours and if this is something the Planning Board decides is outside of what is appropriate for New Gloucester, that's their decision. We just think it's a lot of fun for the kids to feel like Big Leaguers.
Question: Are portable toilets going to be used? Will they seep into wetlands?
Our facility plans a handicap-accessible restroom for our patrons with a full underground septic system. This system will be maintained and pumped in accordance with regulations. There is no risk to the wetlands due to having a proper septic system.
Question: Do you really need a commercial kitchen?
We'd like to be able to sell hamburgers, hot dogs, and some drinks and snacks to folks when they're attending their kids' games. This allows us to keep our costs to families low and helps us maintain all of the infrastructure we maintain, with nothing but volunteer labor. In order to sell food that's cooked inside, the state says we need a commercially certified kitchen. So, that's what we'd like to build. We operate similar snack shacks in Gray at Douglas and Pennell fields and we think most people who don't participate in the league don't even know they're there.
Question: Will lighting glare affect the sky and surrounding properties?
Modern lighting systems are vastly superior to systems used on ballfields in the past. They start up instantly, use incredibly efficient LED lights, and are very directional. These lights have very little light leakage resulting in a safe playing field with very little glare or leakage. We're considering various lighting contractors as part of our research to make sure that we could employ lights while remaining good neighbors. Keys to our selection process will be price, ease of installation, ability to preserve dark skies, and ability to reduce glare to neighbors. Below is a link to a video discussing the products we are considering:
Glare from modern lighting systems: WILL Lights - Glare Discussion
Question: Vandalism and trash are already a problem at the field. Won't this increase?
Vandalism is a minor issue at our fields. Unfortunately, we have had a couple of episodes where townspeople drove their trucks on our fields, doing thousands of dollars of damage that we repaired thanks to many, many townspeople's generosity of time and effort. We hope that isn't held against us. And a new complex will have proper gating and security measures to ensure that vandalism is prevented, and, if not, at least recorded and tracked. Modern security systems are cost effective deterrents to the wayward decisions of youth. Notice will be displayed that cameras are used for security.
As for trash, it is unfortunate that some members of our community decide to throw refuse out their windows while driving. A look along most roadways in our communities reveals too much trash to be acceptable. But we maintain our facilities studiously and keep them very clean. Our community field clean-ups are numerous and provide great benefit to fields we don't even own. And, again, a more modern facility will allow us to more clearly demarcate which space is Little League's and which is the community's.
Question: Is it odd that RRCT & GNGLL are partners in this project?
GNGLL began this project simply aiming to purchase the land we have been graciously allowed to use for our league play. When the Chandlers said they would be willing to sell the whole parcel to prevent development of the land for housing, we asked RRCT to join our project and preserve this land for recreation. We're a Little League, not a preservation society.
With that partnership, over 180 acres are being preserved from real estate development. Without this partnership, perhaps the center of New Gloucester would not be preserved for wildlife, recreation, and community, and would instead be given over to house lots or commercial activity. We don't know.
We join with RRCT in believing this is a fantastic opportunity for the town of New Gloucester and residents across all walks of life and we're proud to partner with them to preserve the nature and character of New Gloucester for generations.