My late friend introduced me to the lake; my heart has never left
Over 30 years ago, having moved from New Hampshire, I started my first job in Maine working overnights at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The graveyard shift creates a tight fraternity and it wasn’t long before I befriended a co-worker who shared a passion for the North Country. He was born and raised in Lewiston and generations of relatives had showed him the ropes ice fishing near Farm Island in Moosehead Lake near Rockwood.
Thus began a friendship born in Lewiston and nurtured in the woods and waters of Moosehead. We hunted and fished as often as our schedules allowed. I moved to Portland to take a new job and my friend was soon taken from us, far too early with lymphoma, but the trips to Moosehead continued, fueled both by the experiences to be had and the memories of our short, but meaningful friendship.
I have fished the Roach River and East Outlet of the Kennebec, paddled the shores and tributaries trolling for salmon, hunted the many accessible coverts for grouse, snowshoed from Greenville to Seebomook Lake on to Pittston Farm and up the North Branch of the Penobscot, and chaperoned my childrens’ overnight ski trips to Squaw Mountain.
Most of my trips rely on the locally owned businesses that exist there now: Indian Hill General Store, the Maine Guide Fly Shop, drift boat guides on the East Outlet and The Birches in Rockwood to name a few.
I join the many Moosehead-area residents who agree that the best way to ensure abundant opportunities for the residents of the greater Moosehead area is to preserve the region’s assets and fully develop its economic potential as a vast, quiet, forested landscape to experience and explore.
On the other hand, the development of more than 2,300 seasonal housing units, as proposed by Plum Creek, destroys the reason many people visit Moosehead or live there, and offers little to Greenville residents.
This is an issue for all Maine residents; it mattered to me when I worked in Lewiston and matters even more as my years and experiences have grown. By law, LURC oversees Maine’s unorganized territories on behalf of all Mainers and we all pay taxes to subsidize this region. In addition, Maine’s waters and wildlife belong to us.
We should ask the LURC commissioners to deny the Plum Creek application and encourage discussion of development that is appropriately scaled to the area and located in the right places to provide both a reasonable return on investment for Plum Creek and enhance sustainable development for Greenville and Rockwood.
LURC is charged with the protection of the diverse and abundant natural resources of the area. These resources would be harmed by Plum Creek’s proposal. In addition, Maine’s Attorney General said, “as currently drafted, this office has significant concern about the value and enforceability of the conservation easement,” that Plum Creek had proposed to offset its destruction of Maine’s natural resources.
Plum Creek should start its development in the town of Greenville, where it owns 8,000 acres but has not proposed putting any houses. While development in town is desirable, the valuable and irreplaceable forests and shorelines far from town should not be squandered as seasonal homes for the out-of-state market.
Although the public hearings are now closed, LURC will continue to accept written testimony on this application and I strongly encourage you to make your feelings known. This is our heritage, for all Mainers, and this may be your last chance to preserve it.
Just this past Thanksgiving my wife and I were told that our first grandchild would be born in May, sometime between ice-out on Moosehead and the emergence of black flies. I hope that someday soon, I can give that grandchild, perhaps on a birthday, the gift of a slowly trolled fly, the feel of a canoe easing onto a deserted beach, and the smell of woodsmoke at our wilderness campsite.
Tony Owens is an amateur naturalist and wilderness advocate, who practices emergency medicine at Maine Medical Center. He lives in Cape Elizabeth.