Concerns raised over Boothbay Winter Festival traffic

Sat, 10/16/2021 - 8:30am

Three Boothbay Center residents wanted town officials to illuminate them about plans for combatting potential winter festival traffic problems. Boothbay Winter Festival took place on Route 27 last year, but it’s moving to the Boothbay Common this year. Promoter Lester Spear moved the festival which coincides with Gardens Aglow occurring from Nov. 20 to Jan. 1.

In a press release, Spear described the community event as “bringing the Common to life with tens of thousands of twinkling lights, delicious cuisine and a German-style holiday market.” Boothbay Center residents Gail McPhee, Dennis Andrews and Marie Andrews all forsee massive traffic congestion.

“I have a lot of questions about this. I see a lot of bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I’m wondering what questions you asked before granting a permit,” McPhee asked selectmen during the Oct. 13 board meeting. 

McPhee and the Andrews presented selectmen with a list of eight questions pertaining to Boothbay Common hosting this year’s festival. Questions centered around hours of operation,  admission fees, number of holiday lights used and insurance coverage. Spear also attended the meeting and answered most of their questions. 

Spear responded the festival would operate the same days and hours as Gardens Aglow with one exception. On Saturdays and Sundays, the festival would open an hour earlier. He also answered her question about fees. He responded vendors would pay a fee, but there would be no public admission fee. As for holiday lights, Spear said: “For me that’s what it’s all about. I think this makes the festival better.”

Bryer believed both the town holiday lights and Spears’ lights would be removed in a timely fashion. As for expenses, Bryer reported Boothbay Common permits didn’t require additional fees for restrooms or additional insurance coverage. Spear added he would place a smaller “Eat here” sign at the common than the one used at his Route 27 location. 

Residents also wanted to know the number of available parking spots around the common. Bryer said he would let them know later this week. 

In other action, Bryer reported federal funding for the Clifford Park project is available. In 2020, Boothbay was awarded a $250,000 matching Land and Water Conservation Grant. Local businessman Paul Coloumbe provided the local $250,000 match. The grant will pay for long-awaited park improvements which are planned for next spring. Improvements include a new little league field, bleachers, multi-use field, playground, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms and pavilion, increased public parking and walkways. 

“It looks like a spring project,” Bryer said. “The good news is we can start all the planning now with contracts and bid packages.” One unresolved project issue is a utility easement with Boothbay Baptist Church. Bryer reported he is still discussing the easement with church officials. 

Selectmen want Bryer to wait a few more days before seeking help from local legislators on a Maine Department of Transportation matter. This summer an MDOT directional arrow sign fell over on the roundabout’s island. Bryer reported the town contacted MDOT, but nothing happened.

“It sounds like it’s time to call Holly (Stover, Maine House of Representative District 88),” said Selectman Chuck Cunningham.

Selectmen meet next at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27 in the conference room.