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Community in the Third Place

By Wes Mills

Contrary to much of what I hear or read in the media, we seem to have more in common with those in our community than things that divide us.

I’m standing by a firepit with the scent of burning marshmallow wafting in and out of my awareness but my primary focus is on the apparent diversity of our community around Arundel. It’s Friday, May 31st, and I’m at a celebration put on by the Arundel Conservation Trust. There are young kids careening into each other on the slide, toddlers with handfuls of woodchips, local business men and women, and flannel clad elders all intermingling: talking, laughing, playing. The land is a commonality among all of us there.

In modern sociology, there is a term “third place” coined by Ray Oldenburg. The “third place” is that vital space away from the home (first place) and work (second place) where we come together, find community, and truly become ourselves. Eric Klinenburg, in his book Palaces for the People, uses the term “social infrastructure” to much the same end. A third place, or example of social infrastructure, can be a library, gym, bar, church, or public space where anyone can come to share life with others from outside their home or work. Studies are finding that social infrastructure is vital for thriving communities, individual’s mental health, and even socioeconomic development. 

That Friday evening by the firepit we were celebrating ACT paying off their loan of $175,000 to Kennebunkport Conservation Trust for the deed to the Arundel Community Trails land. The mortgage was burned and people applauded as ACT was given the deed to the property (as well as the deeds to two other pieces of land in Arundel). The conservation of land is the conservation of social infrastructure. We were together: the elderly and the next generation in Arundel sharing pizza, beer, and laughs utilizing this small piece of land to its greatest purpose: kindling community. 

I may vote differently, spend money differently, have a differing view of the purpose of the cosmos, but as I get to know my neighbors through spending time with them on these lands open to public use I find I have a lot more in common than I do different… and that makes me very optimistic for our future.


Randal Chenard
Randal Chenard
Jun 17

Here here Wes!


Lisa Mills Music
Lisa Mills Music
Jun 15

Well said!

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