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No Public Beach Imminent on China Lake

August 04, 2010 - CHINA -- Selectmen reassured Neck Road residents they will not have a public swimming beach next to their lakeside cottages tomorrow -- or next year, or the year afterward, probably.

Selectmen and Open Space Committee members looked at two properties with lake frontage -- the China Baptist Conference Center on Neck Road and The Cabins at China Lake on Lakeview Drive -- Monday afternoon.

Several Neck Road residents attended the selectmen's meeting that followed to express concerns about a neighboring public beach.

The tour does not mean public access to China Lake is imminent.

Board member Peter Foote had summarized the situation earlier, as he left The Cabins at China Lake. "There needs to be a lot of talking," he said.

The Rev. Al Fletcher, who led the conference center tour, said the board responsible for the facility has authorized making the "best use" of the 220-acre property, including selling all or part of it, if necessary.

However, he said, the conference center is not on the market, and that the preference is for partnerships with other nonprofits -- and perhaps the town of China -- to share use and expenses.

Currently, he said, several religious groups use the facilities, including the swimming area and some of the buildings. The multipurpose building, built in 2002, has been used for middle school graduations, weddings and other functions.

The owners of The Cabins at China Lake offer the 19 small cabins for sale or rent.

That property -- 40 acres, including cabins and dining hall on the lake side of Lakeview Drive and an approved subdivision on the east side of the road -- is for sale for $1.2 million, Selectman Neil Farrington said.

China's comprehensive plan lists acquiring public access to China Lake as a goal. The Open Space Committee, one of several committees working to implement the plan, is exploring options.

Neither specific proposals nor requests for town funding have been developed.

Selectmen also had a long discussion with Weeks Mills firefighters Monday about the planned expansion of the Dirigo Road fire station.

Assistant Chief Tom Stephenson and training officer David Herard came to warn selectmen to expect a bill for more than $13,000 for supplies -- and not to panic, because the department's building fund has more than $15,000 to cover it.

The fund was approved and financed by Town Meeting voters over the last three years.

Weeks Mills firefighters intend to start work soon on a $40,000 project, using a bank loan and lots of volunteer labor. The building belongs to the Weeks Mills Volunteer Fire Department, Stephenson said, although the trucks in it belong to the town.

Town Manager Daniel L'Heureux is not sure it's legal for the town to contribute money to build a privately owned building.

Selectman Joann Austin said voters have approved building fund contributions for three years, with no questions about ownership.

Resident Leslie French said voters in the Weeks Mills area thought the town owned the building they were helping finance.

L'Heureux is to research the issue, including seeking legal advice from the Maine Municipal Association.

In other business, selectmen authorized L'Heureux to consult with state transportation officials about appropriate signage for the intersection of Weeks Mills, Deer Hill and Dirigo roads. Suggestions included an additional stop sign, a sign warning left-turning drivers to yield to oncoming traffic and more speed-limit signs.

by staff writer, Kennebec Journal, August 4, 2010

Lakes: China Lake
Regions: Belgrade


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