2015-10-16 / Letters

Question 4 provides window of opportunity to invest

To the editor:

I will be voting yes on Kennebunk’s question No. 4, and I ask others to join me.

One of the greatest benefits we enjoy in Kennebunk is public access to breathtaking views of the ocean. Most of us can’t afford to live on the ocean, but, gratefully, we have public access to our beaches. Public access is something we can’t afford to take for granted.

When I was a Coca-Cola truck driver who came to Kennebunk in 1970 to deliver to Bowdoin’s Drug Store on Main Street, the town’s population was 5,600.

When Linda and I moved from Lower Village and bought a home in West Kennebunk in 1982, we enjoyed living in what was, even then, a small village with picturesque fields. The town’s population was 6,600.

About 22 years ago I served on Kennebunk’s Comprehensive Plan Committee, and we agreed that development in town should include preservation of open space. The town’s population was 8,000-plus.

Now, the Kennebunk Land Trust is asking for a contribution by taxpayers of $100,000, to be spent only if matched 5-1 by a half million dollars to be raised from private fundraising, in order to preserve in perpetuity 111 acres, including nearly a mile of frontage on the Mousam River.

This is precisely what we as a town committee advocated. Kennebunk already has a fund where $30,000, accumulated earlier, is ready to be used for this, its original purpose, so the real question before us is whether to appropriate the remainder from surplus.

Today Kennebunk has doubled our 1970 head count, with nearly 12,000 residents and entirely new neighborhoods. Largely due to new homes, the town’s median value of houses/condos has doubled since 2000. We have a beautiful town of which I am very proud. However, the speed of its gentrification has me worrying for some families that have called Kennebunk home for generations. This has consequences for young and old. I’ve seen 45 years of change. What will happen in the next 45 years?

We’ll have access to the beaches, but what about our river? Is access to woods and water, so much a part of our past, going to be restricted by private development? Will a walk in the woods along the river be available only to new owners with deep pockets?

Kennebunk’s beauty, schools, community and quality of life is no longer a secret. We should not miss this window of opportunity to guarantee public access to field, woods and river, just as we have to the beach.

As Kennebunk struggles with affordability issues, one thing is for sure. A one-time expense of about $6 per person from surplus will guarantee public access to 111 acres of riverfront property for all Kennebunkers, rich and poor, young and old, to enjoy forever.

Yes, that’s right: one-time modest investment, 5-1 match, window of opportunity, public access forever.

Whether by absentee or on Nov. 3, please join me in voting yes on question 4.

Christopher W. Babbidge, state representative

Return to top