Ken Reed works in law enforcement, so it’s not so surprising he’d want to spend a sunny weekend day crawling through the grass, manning towers, hiding behind trees and trying to shoot his opponents with brightly colored paint exploding from a ball traveling at 280 feet per second.

But with 8 million new players entering the sport of paintball in the last four years, it’s also not surprising that some of Reed’s friends include a couple computer guys, a paramedic, a middle school teacher and a lighting technician in the entertainment industry.

“I like it because there is more to it than just trying to shoot another person,” said Reed, who works at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, about “woodsball,” a tactical paintball game.

Reed plays with friends as Team 51, Gorham’s resident paintball team at Field 51, the outdoor paintball field on Mosher Road waiting for Planning Board approval.

“I just love paintball,” said Norm Richardson, who is trying to establish a business he calls Field 51 on his property. A lifelong Gorham resident who works in the information technology department at L.L. Bean during the week, Richardson is luring paintball enthusiasts from hours away to play on 12 acres of field and forest in his back yard. He’s been playing paintball for six years, and gets excited just talking about the game.

For the past two years he’s been hosting games free, but has had his Field 51 business in front of the Gorham Planning Board almost the whole time, trying to get the paperwork straight to make the business legitimate. He’s also been paying for liability insurance the duration of the process, the money coming out of his pocket until he is legally allowed to charge customers for using his field.

If iapproved by the Gorham Planning Board, Field 51 would be southern Maine’s only “woodsball” paintball field, now that Rogue Paintball in Standish is closed. Woodsball, as the name implies, is paintball played in the woods, unlike the typical tournament-style paintball games known as “speedball,” which is what you’d typically see played amid bright inflatable obstacles on television.

For a woodsball enthusiast, speedball can’t compare. The overly aggressive unloading of hundreds of paintballs in a short few minutes in a speedball game just isn’t the same as using tactics and discipline to traverse through the woods, conquer the castle and defend your position for an entire day.

Then there are the Monty Python-themed games, with the Black Knight rule.

“If you get shot in the arm, you can’t use that arm,” Reed said. “It’s silly, and it’s fun.”

As far as woodsball fields go, Richardson’s is top notch, said Rob Yeaton, a woodsball enthusiast who founded Red Line Paintball in Barrington, N.H., which has its own 25-acre woodsball field. Yeaton drives an hour and a half one way to play on Richardson’s field.

“His is one of the better fields I’ve ever played on, and I’ve been playing for 10 years,” said Yeaton. “He’s got the village. He’s got the woods. He’s got the thicker woods.”

The property, at 363 Mosher Road, has been in Richardson’s family for three generations, and at one time was the site of a farm stand. The paintball field includes three sections, starting with some thick woods. Deeper into the property is an open field filled with a mock village of massive wooden electrical company spools, makeshift forts and lookout towers – all built and donated with the help of Richardson’s teammates and people like Yeaton. Beyond the village is another area of thinner, more easily navigable woods, and a satellite to be defended.

Aside from the great terrain and mock village, Yeaton said one of the best things about the field is Richardson, with his laid-back attitude and attention to safety.

“His is one of those fields that even a newcomer can go to and feel comfortable,” said Yeaton.

At other fields, said Yeaton, there’s no time to teach, but with Richardson’s field, and his great personality, you won’t get shot at as much because people notice you are trying to get the newbies into the game.

According to Yeaton, it’s a safe sport. Statistics say fishing is more dangerous than paintball, despite the reputation it may have as a violent game. But even with innumerable safety precautions, the players are out on the field just to have fun and relax

“Some people have hunting and fishing to relax. I have running through the woods and shooting paintballs at people,” said Yeaton. “It’s high intensity, but relaxing.”

Walking hrough a mock village in Gorham, Ken Reed of Windham participates in a paintball game Saturday afternoon at Field 51. Landowner Norm Richardson has been working to get the Gorham Planning Board to approve a paintball business on his property.


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