JAY — Selectpersons voted Monday to pursue a property lease with the Androscoggin Land Trust for about 10 acres of land at French Falls Recreation Area, and to see what the lease looks like after it is drawn up.

There would be no cost to the town to enter into a lifetime lease for the use of the property, Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said.

An attorney on the trust board would draw up the agreement free of charge, Michael Auger, executive director of the trust, said.

When discussions began about the property formerly owned by Verso Paper Corp. several years ago, there was an indication that the town could own the property.

But because of the funding, the trust will own the land and the town can lease it, LaFreniere said.

The trust acquired nearly 1,250 acres of forested land along the Androscoggin River in Canton and Jay in 2014 to permanently conserve it for public use. The French Falls area at the end of French Falls Lane in Jay is part of the conservation area.

The trust bought the land from Verso Paper Corp. with funding from Land for Maine’s Future, Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program and numerous private foundations, according to the trust’s website.

The land that would be covered in the lease encompasses the current open and managed area on the property, including the parking area, the mowed area, the ball field and the area surrounding the former ice skating rink.

“We are open to a long-term lease,” Auger said.

The trust is open to working with the town to make the recreation area available, he said.

Selectperson Tom Goding said he would like to see the property developed into something the community can use. He would rather know what the town can do with it before entering into a lease, he said.

Board of Selectpersons Chairman Steve McCourt asked if there was a path down to the Androscoggin River.

Auger said there may be a worn path to the river, as he has seen people walking toward the water to fish. 

Recreational access to the river is important, he said. It was one of the reasons the trust was interested in acquiring the parcel.

Other places have developed carry-in, carry-out access to the river.

The lease would give the town the ability to manage the area, Auger said.

At some point in time, the town would like to have a gazebo, Selectperson Tim DeMillo said. He asked if that was something the trust would allow on the land.

A gazebo would would fit right into the vision for the recreation area, Auger noted. However, he had not spoken to the trust board about it.

If the board favors pursuing the lease, an article authorizing selectpersons to enter the agreement would be included on the April town meeting warrant, LaFreniere said.

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