Local businesses are coming through in a big way for the Tri-Town Track & Field Project, as it continues its drive to build a track named for Joan Benoit Samuelson and a synthetic turf playing field within that track at Freeport High School.

John Paterson, secretary of the Tri-Town Track & Field Project fundraising committee, said last week that the group has raised approximately $1.85 million of the estimated $3.2 million it will cost to build the athletic complex. Nike, which sponsors Samuelson, has pledged $1 million.

Parallel to the fundraising effort, the group is working with the Regional School Unit 5 board, hoping that the panel will agree to put the project before voters in Durham, Freeport and Pownal in a November referendum. Originally, RSU 5 had planned to renvovate the grass field at a cost of $600,000. The public must approve the track effort because it is part of a $14.6 million renovation of Freeport High, previously approved by voters.

Bath Savings Institution, Betty ReeZ WhoopieZ, Bow Street Market, Brown Goldsmiths, Buck’s Naked BBQ and Freeport Medical Center have stepped to the plate with significant contributions.

“The business community has been terrific,” Paterson said. “It’s really been wonderful.”

Bath Savings has committed $50,000 to the project. Candice Rinaldi, vice president of mortgage lending, said that the bank’s board decided last month to make the pledge.

“I’m psyched,” Rinaldi said. “I feel proud that I work for a company that values its employees and the community.”

Rinaldi said that a new synthetic turf field and track are “long overdue” in Freeport. The school has no track, so it never hosts meets.

“My personal opinion is this needs to happen,” she said. “Our field is not in really good shape at all.”

Betty Ree Zolla, owner of Betty ReeZ WhoopieZ, said that, as a businesswoman, mother of two runners and a part of the Freeport Running Boosters for the last 14 years, she not only sees the project not only as a track facility offering benefits to the students and athletes in RSU 5.

“Of utmost importance, I see this track as a huge step forward in providing accessibility for the elderly with the need for physical exercise, offering the mental health benefits that accompany exercise,” Zolla said.

Bow Street Market owner Adam Nappi said he is proud to be a strong advocate of the Tri Town Track and Field Project. The amount of the donation was undisclosed.

“It is an exciting way to support an attractive school system, vibrant community and Freeport’s downtown,” Nappi wrote in an email. “Additionally, Bow Street Market supports investing in the Tri Town Track and Field because it promotes an active and healthy community and a focus on team sports. Bow Street Market is honored to be counted among supporters along with other local businesses, individuals, Nike and the community at large.”

Judy and Steve Brown, owners of Brown Goldsmiths, have donated to the cause, as well. Judy Brown said that she remembers when their daughters played soccer and lacrosse at Freeport High, and believes a new, more durable field will help student athletes.

“A quality field is an asset for the kids in the town,” she said. “If you want to play serious sports, you kind of need a field that’s in good shape.”

Brown added that members of the Tri-Town Track & Field Project “have really put their hearts into this,” and that a new track and field would be good for the entire community.

“Steve and I thought it was a good thing to support,” she said.

Paterson said the fundraising for the Tri-Town Track & Field Project is divided into teams: Freeport individuals, “high asset” donors, Durham donors and Pownal donors. In addition, the committee is selling paving bricks, to be set into the ground near the track and field. A $500 donation will buy a small paver engraved with the name of the donor’s choice, and $1,500 will fetch a large brick.

The group also is hoping that the school board will agree to redirect the $600,000 it would cost to restore the grass playing field to the synthetic track and field. The work on the grass field was part of the renovation to Freeport High School, which is ongoing, so that, too, would require voter approval in November.

The Tri-Town Track & Field Project also is collaborating with RSU 5 on a soil analysis, to determine the amount of earth movement that will be required to install the turf track and field.

“You’ve got to set a base,” Paterson said. “You have to have stability, and in order to have artificial turf ou have to do down several feet.

Paterson said the group is hoping the school board will vote in September to put to project to a November referendum. That could be contingent on how much money has been raised, he said.

“We remain very confident that the voters are going to approve the repurposing of money that the RSU already has,” he said.

The logo for the Tri-Town Track and Field Project.

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