AUBURN — A federally funded study will look at balancing recreational uses with the Maine National Guard's firing range on Mount Apatite.
The city received a $149,998 grant from the Federal Office of Economic Adjustment on Wednesday to pay for a master plan study of the site west of Garfield Road and north of Minot Avenue.
Auburn Planning Director Eric Cousens said he expected the city and consultants to begin discussing the scope of the plan in October. Meetings with the Army and other users could begin later in the fall.
"Most of this will be running a public process," Cousens said. "There are snowmobile clubs, the Little League, the Parks and Rec Department and the city of Auburn as a whole. The guard has a firing-range facility out there, and I know the police are interested in using that, too, for their training purposes."
The area is home to a 344-acre park covered with gemstone quarries, hiking trails and cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails. It's also home to the Auburn Suburban Little League ball fields.
The Maine National Guard operates its Auburn Training Site there 207 days a year, on 154 acres between the park and the Little League fields. The soldiers and their equipment have to drive through the Little League parking area to reach the training site. Hikers and gem-hunters have to walk through the guard's training site to reach the park area.
"The National Guard is just looking at completing their mission and we are trying to minimize impacts to our users and residents," Cousens said.
Training activities include small-arms training and small-unit tactics, chemical and biological defense, navigation, combat skills, heavy equipment operation and combat engineer operations.
"The city wants to look at the land use around the guard facility and make sure we minimize the impacts of their operations on our parks and ball fields and the residents in the area," Cousens said. "We also want to look at the best ways to do that. For example there may be ways to improve access by various groups to the site. On the other side, the National Guard wants to look at our land-use polices to prevent uses going up that would create even more complications."
Cousens said the study also would look at road access, wetlands and potential site designs.
View Mt. Apatite Study Area in a larger map