LEWISTON — Don Arel lost his bid Wednesday to keep his off-road park, campground and firing range open and operating.

Members of the city’s Appeals Board found that Arel’s operation, All Wheels Off Road Park at 50 Old Farm Road, violates city zoning codes and city staff was right to order it closed in June.

“I think you’re doing a great thing; you just have to go through the process,” board Chairman Doug Stone said. “This was not a personal decision, solely a matter of law and ordinances. I hope you come back and go through the process.”

But Arel, surrounded by supporters and friends, said that would not happen.

“I’m disabled, and I cannot run this as a business,” Arel said. “That’s why I let people just play there. I’m tired of it; my family is tired of it. The city is tired of it, so we’re going to let it go.”

Arel’s brother, Andy Arel, told the board it was evidence of something going wrong with society.

“What we have created as a society is a world full of lawyers and politicians,” he said. “Not for nothing, everybody has a place. But we’ve turned into a world of red tape. We’ve overregulated ourselves.”

Arel and the city disagree about what Don Arel had going in the 428-acre park off College Street near the Greene town line.

Arel said he intended to make the park a business when he bought the property in 1999. He even created a limited liability corporation and was moving forward until he learned he needed Planning Board permission, wetland studies and other expensive engineering reports. He let the LLC lapse.

Arel said he was told he and his friends could continue using the land as a hobby. He kept donation boxes near the entrance, to help pay his property taxes. Last year, he said he took in $8,000 in donations and paid $12,000 in property taxes.

Gil Arsenault, Lewiston’s director of planning and code enforcement, said Arel’s operation was an unpermitted and unlicensed business. He said Arel’s operation was promoted on Facebook and around the Internet and had hosted special events.

“When you go through all this, it’s pretty clear that this is something other than an owner who is being generous with his or her land,” Arsenault said.

Arel disagreed. What he has is a big plot of undeveloped land and a whole host of friends who like to use it to ride their ATVs and off-road vehicles, camp out and shoot their guns.

“We’ve run into a lot of people who don’t have the land of their own to enjoy these hobbies,” he said. “They don’t have a place to do it, legally. So we opened it up to them. That’s all we wanted to do.”

He called the people who used the park his friends, and many of them were in the room Wednesday night.

Randolph Gayton of Litchfield said he spends much of his time and money in Lewiston because of Arel’s park.

“I can go anywhere else in the state of Maine,” he said. “I don’t. I go to Don’s and I spend thousands in Lewiston and you are going to lose out. Yeah, I’m going to lose a place to wheel, but you are losing that money and people coming to your city for Don.”

Stuart Sennett of Milton, N.H., agreed.

“He gives people a place to go and not wheel illegally,” Sennett said. “He gives you a place to go, for free, and play with your family. You can teach your family how to shoot a gun safely, how to ride a four-wheeler, a dirt bike, drive in a safe, controlled environment.”

But not everyone was a fan. Norman Poulin of 720 Old Greene Road said his property abuts Arel’s park and the noise from the shooting and the four-wheelers is hard to live with.

“It’s a nice park? No, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “There is no peace and tranquility in the area. They shoot every day, morning, noon and night.”

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