letter to the editor

‘Old guard’ needs to retire old ideas and outmoded notions of developing the Thomaston Green for private use

Fri, 06/09/2023 - 3:30pm

In  response to Chris Rector’s recent (June 6) letter in the Free Press,  certain facts related to the Knox Clinic’s plans are simply wrong and misleading. 

His letter conflicts with the Knox Clinic’s own informational statements conveyed at several meetings over the past few weeks and months.  First the footprint of the clinic on the Green is approximately 7,400 square feet—not 7,000, as stated in Rector’s letter. 

To be clear, this is the equivalent of three fairly large 2,500 square foot suburban ranch houses.  Moreover, the actual square footage is 11,400 square feet, according to Clinic officials, including a second story. 

The parking lot behind, as recently presented on a new site plan by the Health Clinic, covers much of the acreage on the right quadrant of the Green facing Route 1.  This is not some small, mom and pop storefront, but one that effectively privatizes and paves over the very heart of the Green.

Left alone the Green slows traffic and surprises travelers upon entering Thomaston’s historic district.  It tells friends and ourselves that we welcome all to this special place framing a sense of community, quiet, nature, and openness.       

Rector undoubtedly means well and sincerely wants to support the Knox Clinic.   Most residents agree with bringing expanded health services to the Midcoast region.  Where? is the unanswered question.  

Over the years, the Green has become a familiar and much loved park.  Taking Thomaston’s only centrally located, un-programmed relatively flat open space away from those most affected, including children, families, seniors and others who rent without access to yards seems mean-spirited and completely unnecessary.

There are many consequential, even disturbing issues related to process and governance that the Green has also raised.  These concerns have to do with dis-allowing all citizens the opportunity to participate in free and fair government voting. 

Rector and others, whether they admit it or not, know that tacking the Green questions onto  a lengthy, complex, in-person only ballot is undemocratic, dishonest, and a reason many residents no longer trust their local elected officials.  Town Halls are fine for airing opinions and hearing your neighbors varying points of view.  They are not OK for in-person voting, especially on issues of consequence affecting everyone and  not just those able to show up for several hours at a particular time and place.  Most people have busy lives and rightly demand a voting process honoring 21st century needs.

The Green is a discrete, historic place of immense consequence to Thomaston’s future — as a community gathering place offering long term economic benefits along with irreplaceable scenic, recreational and educational value.   

At less than 11 useable acres the Green, now being cut back to approximately seven acres is not large enough to accommodate proposed building projects and a fully functioning multi-use and multi-generational public park.  If parts of the Green are sold or further divided by roads and buildings, then ball fields, playgrounds, community gardens, festivals and events are far less feasible or even possible. 

Thomaston’s Select Board has left millions on the table as to funding opportunities available through government grants, charitable foundations, and private donations.   Funds can only be granted to fully protected and preserved public spaces.   A new nonprofit organization to program Watts hall is already up and running.  

A protected Green, led by active volunteers in partnership with enlightened government leadership would have access to many of the same funding sources and countless other federal, state and local grant funds that are only available for public parks.  Give or sell key parts of the Green away and the loss is not only open space but the creative synergies of dedicated citizens devoted to a wider, greener vision for Thomaston and its people.  

It is no longer about whether the Health Clinic should be located on the Green.  It is about the egos of smart people who should know better than to brazenly manipulate outdated rules that, in effect, deny many voters the right to decide for themselves.

The “old guard” needs to retire old ideas and outmoded notions of developing the Green for private use.  Instead, let’s put kids with kites, families with picnic baskets, seniors with grandchildren in strollers, and renters without backyards on a Green that will remain green for all!  

Chris Crosman lives in Thomaston