The Mitchell Field Committee hopes a forthcoming survey will give it direction on the future of the property, including the vacant administration building. (REBECCA NORDEN-BRIGHT PHOTO)
Set to arrive with tax bills around mid-August, a survey by the town’s Mitchell Field Committee will seek guidance on the future of the property.
The town will mail the survey with tax bills and post it on the town website, harpswell.maine.gov.
George J. Mitchell Field boasts 120 acres and a half-mile of waterfront. Mitchell Field Committee Chair Spike Haible called the property “the largest open space in town” and “one of the largest remaining open spaces on the Maine coast.” The federal government transferred the former U.S. Navy fuel depot to the town in 2001.
The committee wants a performance review and direction on key questions.
“What do you like? What don’t you like? And what do you think about the future?” Haible said.
The survey contains seven sections, A-G.
Section A asks how often respondents come to Mitchell Field and what they do there, such as walk a dog or attend a concert at the bandstand. If they rarely or never come, it asks why.
Section B asks about activities at Mitchell Field. Respondents can rate the property from “not so good” to “very good” for a range of activities, such as walking and swimming. The section asks what respondents like most and least about Mitchell Field, as well as what they would do to improve it.
Section C inquires about parking and roads — where respondents park, how often they can find space to park, whether they want more parking, and whether they feel unsafe around vehicles on the access road or at the waterfront.
Section D solicits opinions about the property’s dog policy, which requires dogs to be on leash from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and under owner control at all times.
Section E, the most extensive part of the survey, polls the community on possible improvements at the property.
First, respondents can rate how likely they would be to use possible future additions, such as basketball or pickleball courts, a bicycle or skateboard park, a dog park, an ice skating rink, nature trails or a playground. Respondents can add their own ideas.
The section asks if the town should add moorings in Middle Bay, off the shore of Mitchell Field. The town has eight moorings in the area, with requests for more.
Next, Section E asks if respondents would use a boat launch at Mitchell Field. The town has secured a matching grant for the construction of a launch.
A fifth question in the section asks for thoughts on the future of the administration building — the large building across from the beach, which has an attached garage. Haible sees the question about the building as the survey’s most important.
“The building is currently vacant and in need of repairs. The garage is used for storage,” the survey states. “A local donor has offered to fund renovation of the building but not the garage.”
To facilitate use of the building, the town would need to put in a septic system and well, as well as more parking. But demolition of the building and construction of a new one “would require similar expenditures,” the survey says.
Respondents can indicate whether they prefer to renovate the building for town and community use; make short-term repairs and keep the building for future use; demolish the building and use the site for open space, more parking and permanent restrooms; or demolish the building and build a smaller one for waterfront and community use.
The last question in Section E asks about available space in the Marine Business District at Mitchell Field, currently home to the Running Tide kelp and oyster hatchery. The options are to recruit an additional business, develop the space for town use or keep it as open space.
Section F asks for information about the respondent’s residency, age and household. Finally, Section G asks, “Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Mitchell Field?”
Those who want to learn more about Mitchell Field before filling out the survey can find the 2007 Mitchell Field Master Plan, a 2020 update to the plan and other information on the Mitchell Field page at harpswell.maine.gov.
The survey takes about 10 minutes to fill out. Respondents can complete it online or complete a paper copy, then drop it off at the Town Office, either at the front desk or in the drop box outside; or mail it to Town of Harpswell, P.O. Box 39, Harpswell, ME 04079.