letter to the editor

‘Hub of Wellness?’ We already have it

Fri, 06/09/2023 - 7:45am

This letter responds to Chris Rector’s, “Knox Clinic by the Green” in the June 6 issue of the Free Press. I take issue with town officials who highlight the ancillary benefits the clinic says it will provide if it is located on Thomaston Green.

Recreational space, walking paths, and community gardens are wonderful! You say, “What’s the problem with that?” Last time I checked, it was the municipality’s job to make park improvements for residents.

Has the Town of Thomaston done that over the last 18 years? Not in the way the clinic is saying it will. Now, they’ll be off the hook because Knox Clinic will do it for them. 

To be fair, the town did erect the flagpole, gazebo, the unfinished William King Street, gravel paths along the river side, and underground water and sewer on the north side of the Green. They also maintain it by mowing and plowing and collecting trash. It’s just that it stopped there.

The carrot to entice those of us who want a park by calling it “synergy” and a “hub of wellness” to locate Knox Clinic on Thomaston Green on the surface sounds great. However, if continuous investment for park improvements for the Green had been made over the past 18 years, it truly would be a “hub of wellness.” The Green still provides passive and active health and wellness benefits because of its open, flat, continuous space with breathtaking views and proximity to downtown.

Jonathan Eaton, another Economic Development Committee member, recently stated that the town was a good steward of the Green. Yet, there’s not even one bench installed to take advantage of the scenic views. And I don’t call those long aluminum athletic benches facing the soccer field appropriate park benches.

If community gardens, (handicap-accessible) walking paths, and restrooms (so that we can remove the unsightly porta-potty by the prison wall) are the selling points for the clinic, why hasn’t the town taken the responsibility to provide them for residents? Because it puts OUR money into other things, like failing old buildings.

At 12:37 p.m. June 1, the day of the Thomaston Green Articles Public Hearing, the town called a Special Select Board Meeting for 5:15 p.m. Its purpose: Rescind the Annual Town Meeting Warrant so that they could add another article to spend $200,000 (when they only needed $176,000) on an elevator in the Academy Building. Yet, they can’t afford to put one park bench on Thomaston Green?

If Thomaston Green were classified as a public open space in perpetuity, that attests to stewardship. In fact, to qualify for governmental and private funding, the applicant must attest to a long-term commitment that the land will remain a park for the long haul. Without that designation, there’s no skin in the game. “Reserved as park space” (in Article 3) means nothing. If the town can’t commit to saying that the area south of William King Street and the 100-foot-tree-lined esplanade is a park in perpetuity, we’re sunk. Because it’s unlikely that investments in park improvements will be in budgets, and we will be disqualified from funding opportunities.

The town is happy to have Knox Clinic foot the bill for recreational and park improvements on Thomaston Green. When the rubber meets the road, will the clinic be able do that? Will Knox Clinic become the stewards of Thomaston Green?

Kathleen Norton lives in Thomaston