BELFAST, Maine — City councilors have unanimously supported the creation of a public labyrinth walking path at Belfast Common and decided against the use of pesticides in the same park.
During the open to the public portion of Tuesday night’s regular council meeting, many concerned residents and park users from other communities told the councilors about their opposition to the use of pesticides in the common.
Belfast Parks and Recreation Department Director Norm Poirier had told councilors in a memo that the various methods of weed control used by the city were proving ineffective on a little-used walkway that heads down into the Belfast Common. One possible solution, though not one he recommended, would be to contract with a licensed applicator to spray pesticides in the area.
“Our town is better than that,” Sasha Kutsy of Belfast told councilors in regards to possible pesticide use.
Ann Mullen of the Belfast Garden Club told the councilors that she used to be a licensed pesticide applicator in the state of New York and knows a lot about them.
“Those things are all deadly,” she said. “They’re killers. That’s what they’re designed to be, killers. … These things can be valuable, in cases of public health emergencies. But they should always be used extremely judiciously.”
In the end, councilors agreed with the pesticide opponents and voted in favor of pulling up the paver stones on the walkway and reseeding the area with grass.
They also were supportive of a proposed 30-foot diameter paved labyrinth, a walking path that would be constructed and paid for by the Friends of Belfast Parks Labyrinth Committee. Supporters told councilors that the walking path ideally would draw more visitors to Belfast Common and even to the city.
“There will be people, nationally and internationally, who will say, ‘There’s a labyrinth in Belfast. Let’s go check it out,’” The Rev. Duncan Newcomer, a Veriditas-trained labyrinth expert who lives in Northport, said.
According to Veriditas, a nonprofit organization based in California that trains labyrinth facilitators around the world, a labyrinth is not a maze but rather a path of prayer and meditation.
“There are no tricks to it and no dead ends,” the description on the Veriditas website states. “Unlike a maze where you lose your way, the labyrinth is a spiritual tool that can help you find your way.”
The Belfast labyrinth committee is proposing to name the walking path for one of Belfast’s most accomplished residents, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, who lived from 1802 to 1866 and who was a clockmaker, inventor, healer and metaphysical teacher. His work led to the 19th century New Thought philosophical movement.
The labyrinth has a projected cost of between $26,500 and $30,000, with all funds to be raised by the committee. If the $30,000 funding goal is reached by June 30, the labyrinth project should be completed by mid-July. If it is not, it will be finished as funding is received, according to a proposal from the committee.
Mayor Walter Ash said that the Friends of Belfast Parks and its committees have done good work for the city.
“A lot of stuff we have in this community, we wouldn’t have without your group,” he said.
In other business, the council voted to increase the fire suppression costs for the neighboring town of Swanville by 10 percent annually for five years, for an eventual cost of $38,000 per year. Swanville does not have its own fire department.
“It seems to me that even at $38,000, they’re still getting a deal,” Councilor Neal Harkness said. “I think this is very, very reasonable.”