West Paris Athletic Association pitches town to restore diamond in the rough

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WEST PARIS — Soon, thanks to the work of community volunteers and the residents of West Paris, families can once again gather at the Harold Perham Field to watch or play baseball games.

At least that’s what Andrew Merrill, chairman of the West Paris Athletic Association, is hoping will happen after a special town meeting to approve the release of funds for a field restoration project.

The association is hoping the meeting will take place no later than Monday, Sept. 21, to vote on whether to move $8,105 from the now-defunct Old Home Days’ account to the association’s fund. The group is hoping voters will let them spend the money from that account plus $14,000 in their account to begin construction on the Harold Perham Field.

Merrill said the association also has secured approximately $4,900 in donations of cash and materials, and hopes to trim even more of the overall $35,500 project cost by using volunteers to truck the materials and to do some of the actual work on the field.

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Because the end of summer is approaching, the association is up against a tight deadline for starting the project if they plan to have the field usable by next year.

There are three smaller ball fields at the Mann Complex, according to Town Manager John White, but the Harold Perham Field has been there the longest and needs substantial work to be usable again. The original field was probably built in the 1940s or ’50s, complete with a grandstand that burned to the ground in 2008. Insurance covered the cost to rebuild the grandstand, but the field has been out of use for years, and with the new grandstand already in place, the town sees the field restoration as an opportunity to bring new life to the complex.

“It was a very sad event,” said White of the grandstand’s burning. “Now that we have this new modern grandstand there, we want to use the field again. It’s in disrepair. The selectmen started work on this last year. We had some work done to try to keep it from flooding each year.”

White said the West Paris Athletic Association, a hybrid between an independent organization and a town department because it receives town funding, makes up for the town’s lack of a traditional recreation department by organizing athletic activities for children up to grades five or six. If this larger field is made available for use, White said they would have the ability to offer baseball teams for teenagers.

“In addition to that, there is a local adult baseball team called the West Paris Westies, and that field used to be their home base. We’re trying to bring them back to play here,” White said.

Besides the town vote for funding, the field project faces another obstacle. White said the town has applied for a Permit-by-Rule through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The process is much simpler than trying to obtain permitting on more complex site design plans, but because any project involving site work has the potential for environmental impact, the DEP is required to be involved.

White said the permit application is currently stalled briefly because the DEP requested additional information on the size of the baseball diamond. He has since provided the information to them.

“They consider a baseball diamond an impervious area – like a paved parking lot,” said White, who found a plan of a diamond on the Babe Ruth website to submit as a supplement to the original application.

If the town approves the plan at the upcoming special town meeting, and if no more snags are hit in the Permit-by-Rule process, then construction can begin during the last week of September. The project will start with grading and fill to level the field and ensure proper drainage, then the infield will be installed with stone dust and the remaining area will be seeded. Until the grass comes in, there will also be erosion-control measures in place.

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