If the owners of Shaw Brothers Construction prevail, a large parcel of wooded land at the entrance to Gorham would become a working farm with walking trails and other public amenities.

Company owners Jon and Dan Shaw sent a letter to the Gorham Town Council in late April, explaining their proposal for the 258-acre property – including plans to build a road to the Presumpscot River, a parking lot, a walking trail and public access. At a May 5 Town Council meeting, the panel unanimously supported the proposal.

However, the first major hurdle for Shaw Brothers is acquiring the land from ecomaine, the regional waste and recycling company.

Kevin Roche, the CEO of ecomaine, said in an email Tuesday that the Shaws presented their vision to the ecomaine executive committee on May 21. He said a subcommittee will now review their options.

“I expect the subcommittee will meet over the summer and report back in the fall,” Roche said. “It will be up to the board of directors if and or when they want to consider selling the property.”

Referring to the proposal, Roche said he was “impressed by their vision. It sounds pretty neat.”

According to the Shaw brothers’ letter, the project would also revitalize the hay fields that formerly were on the property. The land is mostly wooded now, lined with trees and bushes. The plan also calls for reserving frontage for a local farmers market and other commercial uses, which would pay for the property taxes.

According to Mike Darcangelo, the Gorham tax assessor, the 214-acre ecomaine property has a tax value of $1,515,900. The remaining 50 acres, which is technically a separate parcel, is assessed at $1,055,700. However, as a “quasi-public municipality,” he said, property owned by ecomaine is exempt from taxation.

The Shaws’ letter also outlines the plan to restore the property to a working farm.

“The bulk of the property would be used for farming and would be restricted from public access during the growing season with the exception of the river access road and walking trail,” the letter said. “However, during winter, the land could be used by the public for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, and skating. We intend to construct this project over time using Shaw Brothers spare crews when available and material at the site when possible.”

The brothers are using the project to launch the nonprofit Shaw Brothers Family Foundation, whose mission, according to their letter, will include “supporting agricultural and recreational activities.”

On Wednesday, Dan Shaw said the “ball is in their court,” referring to ecomaine’s discussion about the land.

“We want to give back to the community, and we think that would be a good place to start,” Shaw said about the ecomaine parcel. “They’re going to get back to us on if we can buy it and how much it would be,” he said.

Shaw Brothers Construction, founded in 1977, is now one of Maine’s largest earthwork contractors, with more than 200 employees. According to its website, the company has completed some 800 commercial projects.

Shaw said the company already is a Camp Sunshine and Boy and Girl Scout troop sponsor, support that will go forward under the Shaw Brothers Family Foundation. He said the foundation would be launched regardless if the property is acquired.

“This would be a big thing not only for Gorham, but for all of southern Maine,” he said. “It would be a place to go for some great recreation, with river frontage, water access, trails, and keeping the theme of farming.”

The land is also bordered by the Rines and Mosher farms. In the letter, Jon and Dan Shaw state that their “complete” proposal is contingent on eventually acquiring adjacent land to develop the farm, but did not specifically mention the Rines and Mosher properties.

“If we were not able to acquire the additional land, we would work with the town to modify our concept, pursue other development options, or sell the ecomaine property with the river access and walking trail easements remaining indefinitely for public use,” the letter states.

“We can’t speak for the Rines or the Moshers, but hopefully down the road that will come into play,” Shaw said Wednesday.

The land was originally purchased by Regional Waste Services, prior to it becoming ecomaine, for use as a stump dump for wood waste recyling. In the late 1990s, there was also a plan for a natural gas plant to generate electricity, but it never materialized.

Roche added that the company has not yet received any offers on the property. He said the property was last appraised over a year ago, and doesn’t know what the land is worth.

Shaw called the property “pretty special.”

“I’m not sure how many properties are left with that type of opportunity for recreation,” he said.

The ecomaine property that Jon and Dan Shaw want to buy is on the left, in this photo looking east toward Westbrook, on Route 25.Staff photo by Robert LowellThis sign posted by ?e?comaine on its large land tract in Gorham issues instructions for hunting limitations at the site. Staff photo by Robert Lowell


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