Mere Creek Golf Course and its parking lot are off-limits to cross country skiers this winter, something the town is trying to resolve with the owner. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Some local cross country skiers are upset after the owner of Mere Creek Golf Course in Brunswick closed the course for winter activities, cutting off a popular spot many praised for being easily accessible and family-friendly. 

The parking lot is also blocked off, limiting parking for the nearby trails at the Kate Furbish Preserve and, according to some skiers, causing safety concerns for those who have to park along the road. 

Harris Golf, the company leasing and operating Mere Creek Golf Course at Brunswick Landing, has barred skiers from using the course over the winter, allegedly over “incidents” that occurred last year, including vandalism and damage to the course, Town Manager John Eldridge said last week. 

The town has an easement across a portion of the golf course that allows public access to the trails at the Kate Furbish Preserve, he said, and that trail is open for skiing, hiking and snowshoeing. The Parks and Recreation Department cut down some trees to provide direct access to the preserve trails from Merriconeag Road so skiers do not have to go through the golf course property.

“Nothing in the lease requires Harris Golf to allow public use of the golf course for winter activities,” Eldridge told the council and community during a recent meeting, and as the land is owned by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the town has no legal authority to require the company to open the trails. 

They do, however, have the “power of public discourse,” according to Town Councilor Dan Ankeles, who encouraged residents in a social media post to voice their concerns to “hold Harris Golf to account for the poor stewardship they have displayed in their attempts to block access to public land, deny the public the use of parking spots and prohibit cross country skiing on the course,” something he said most courses allow.

“Cross country skiers can get upset when our skiing access is blocked” because there is such limited fresh snow, said Kathy Thorson, co-chair of the newly-formed Brunswick-Topsham Friends of XC Skiing, an advisory group to the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust. 

“Because everything is roped off, many people mistakenly believe that the trail is closed,” she said Tuesday, when really “it is open and has been nicely groomed by Parks and Rec.”

The department has been “incredibly responsive,” she said and created the alternative access point within days of learning the lot and course were roped off.    

There are other options for cross country skiing in town, like the Kate Furbish trails, Crystal Spring Farm and the new Woodward Point preserve, but “what was unique about that place was it’s very accessible to people of all different ages and all different abilities,” Bonnie Wood, a cross country skier told the council. Many other trails are multi-use and can be difficult to share with others, like people on fat-tire bikes, she said, but the wide-open nature of the golf course made it ideal. 

“It’s a winter use for year-round residents, a lot of them are retired and a lot of families use it,” Sarah Laurence agreed. “There’s such value-added,” she said, and suggested that skiers could band together and police each other, put up signs, haul trash or do whatever was needed to maintain the trail. 

“I feel we’ve had a history of use and it’s always gone very well,” she said. “Don’t blame skiers for everything that goes wrong.” 

Eldridge said town officials met with Harris late last week to discuss the issue, and that the meeting was “very cordial and productive.”

He said he will have an update for the council at the meeting Feb. 3. 

Harris Golf did not return requests for comment.

 

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