AUBURN — One idea emerging from a land use study looking at military and recreation uses around Mount Apatite is that they work well together, according to one city official.

Members of the group studying how to balance recreational uses at the park with the Maine National Guard’s training site are scheduled to present their work so far at an open house at 5 p.m. May 29 in Auburn Hall.

“The park is a good neighbor for a guard facility — much better than having residences near a firing range, and things like that,” Auburn Planning Director Eric Cousens said. “That’s been recognized by the guard and by the committee. So there may be opportunities to fund park expansion in the long term that also help the guard buffer themselves.”

The eight-member group began meeting weekly in December to discuss use of the site and how to balance the Maine National Guard’s mission to train its soldiers with Little League, hiking and other recreational activities nearby.

“The intent is to find solutions, particularly in areas where there are encroachments and potentials for encroachment,” said Lt. Col. Dwaine Drummond, director of facilities and engineering for the Maine Army National Guard. “We want to ensure we can still have joint use of the area for both their recreation use and our military training.”

The area is currently home to the 344-acre Mount Apatite Park recreation area, covered with gemstone quarries, summertime hiking trails and winter cross country skiing and snowmobile trails. It’s also home to the Auburn Suburban Little League’s team fields.

The Maine National Guard operates its Auburn Training Site there 270 days each year, on 154 acres between the park and the Little League ball fields. 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 study looks to find better ways to balance those uses and perhaps provide better access to the area. It is being paid with a $149,998 grant from the Federal Office of Economic Adjustment.

One of the biggest conflicts may be simply getting on to the site. 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 Mount Apatite area.

“They have combined access for recreational uses and the guard and that presents some challenges,” Cousens said. “It will be addressed in the study. Also, defining boundaries will also have to be covered. How do we make sure people know where they are and where they should be?”

Cousens said the study is paying special attention to the military mission of the land.

“How does the military installation continue to exist and how do uses around it, in this case Mount Apatite and residential uses, all continue to exist and how can we minimize each other’s impact on the other uses?” Cousens said.

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