Kevin Boilard of Lewiston picks up trash Aug. 2 during a volunteer cleanup event at the Franklin Pasture Athletic Complex. The city will restrict the fields to school and rental use only this fall and create a new position to oversee volunteers and open field access times in the future. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

LEWISTON — The city plans to close the artificial turf fields at the Franklin Pasture Complex this fall, but is adding a new staff position to oversee more “structured access” after continued vandalism at the fields.

The City Council approved a first reading Tuesday on new rules for the fields — which will limit use of the complex to school functions and rentals starting this fall — while also approving funding to hire for the new position.

Recreation Director Nicole Welch said she believes the changes can be the start of a more “inclusive” recreation program in the city.

“The intent is not to lock it up and never open it again,” she said. “It’s actually the opposite. We want to increase structured and supervised opportunities.”

The council decisions Tuesday came after an initial proposal to close the fields was tabled earlier this summer due to concerns for community access. Many local youth use the fields for unstructured soccer games and other recreation, but city staff has said vandalism has occurred during times when the fields are unsupervised.

Since that first proposal, the city has held a forum and organized a Friends of Franklin Pasture volunteer group to assist with field oversight and cleanup.


Welch said Tuesday that vandalism has continued, including items stolen (such as the home plate from the baseball field), people climbing on the soccer nets, a hole cut in the baseball backstop, and portable toilets vandalized.

“I recognize closing the facility right now feels heavy given we know our community needs more recreational opportunities,” Welch told the council. “But, this gives the city and school time to build a new recreation infrastructure.”

She said the new staff member would not only oversee and grow the Friends of Franklin Pasture group, but also coordinate volunteers interested in running pick-up leagues. The department will also work to schedule times for open access to the soccer fields, she said.

The department recently hosted a second Franklin Pasture cleanup day, during which seven people attended. Welch said the city has five people on board so far to schedule and participate in regular cleanups. She said that while “it’s a good start, ideally we’d have more.”

Councilors were generally supportive of the solution, although Councilor Scott Harriman disagreed with closing the fields prior to having the position hired and working. He said that during recent public forums, one of the topics that was continually brought up is the need for kids to have places to play.

Councilor Bob McCarthy disagreed, stating the council should be putting a stop to the vandalism first “and then reopen with a structure that stops the vandalism.”


If the new field rules are approved in a final reading Sept. 19, it would go into effect 30 days later.

Mayor Carl Sheline said the proposal Tuesday “is a workable solution” with the field closure coinciding with coming winter. He said it will give the city time to hire the new position and “get up to speed and be ready to go in the spring.”

Later in the meeting, the council approved spending $49,149 to cover the cost of the full-time position starting Nov. 1 through the current fiscal year on June 30. According to a council memo, the staff member will oversee “Franklin Pasture Complex scheduling, volunteer program, community outreach, and other related duties.”

Welch said the individual would increase networking with local organizations to increase facility access, rent the facility, and “remove hurdles” for people to rent it.

City administration said the full-year cost of the position, including fringe benefits is estimated at $90,000. The hourly wage would be between $19 and $21 an hour.

Councilor Rick LaChapelle, who was the lone councilor to vote against the addition of the position, said he was “shocked” by the cost.


McCarthy motioned to table the vote until the council could see a clearer breakdown of the costs, but the motion failed. Councilor Lee Clement said the position is “entirely reasonable” and that “it’s what we’ve been talking about most of the summer now.”

During public comment, Hawo Ali said she was disappointed that no one was in the audience to speak for the youth that use the fields. She said most of the young people using the fields need constructive things to do.

Luke Jensen, a former councilor who is running for mayor this fall, said the new position and focus on the athletic fields is an opportunity to change Lewiston’s reputation.

Superintendent Jake Langlais said “the biggest issue we’ve had is a lack of supervision,” and that this effort will help organize, and supervise the fields while keeping kids active. He said it would also teach youth from a young age “how to properly take care of our fields.”

Sheline said he wouldn’t have been in favor of closing the fields without “hiring the position that will allow the city the reopen them. Open access to the fields is critical to our city’s youth,” he said.

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