The Conservation of Western Maine: Culture, Land and History

Duluth Wing and Benedict Arnold's knifeToday I held in my hand a jack knife that was left behind at a campsite in the hills of Eustis, Maine by a member of Benedict Arnold’s troops in 1775.  It was discovered over the weekend, and will be protected with numerous other artifacts of that Expedition, by Duluth, “Dude” Wing, a man I spent a day with twenty years ago, exploring one of those historic campsites.

Dude and I were both attending a celebration this afternoon of the protection of nearly 14,000 acres of Crocker Mountain, right beside Sugarloaf Ski Area in Carrabassett Valley.  This effort, the result of years of work by dozens of partners, was led by a trio of heavy hitters:  The Trust for Public Land, the Land for Maine’s Future Program and Plum Creek, the landowner that sold the parcel into mixed use conservation; land now to be held by the State of Maine.

As I headed north this morning, from Portland to Carrabassett Valley, I drove up beyond Augusta and up into Madison, passing dairy cows sunning themselves in the pasture and newly cleared corn fields with freshly chopped corn silage stored beside the barns, over to North Anson and then to Kingfield.  I drove past logging trucks loaded with tree-length hardwood (you’ll remember I’m a forester so I catch these details) and tractor trailer rigs with finished, wrapped lumber headed south to home improvement centers.  I drove under maple and birch trees that had already lost their leaves, bright yellow poplars and beech trees encircled in faded brown, then yellow, then still pale green leaves.  Beside classic farmhouses of red brick or white clapboard were oak trees with crowns of burnt brown under the blue sky.  The hills I rode up and over gave me glimpses of the mountains I was headed towards.  In front of me are smaller, modest homes and trailers in need of repair.

The Crocker Mountain conservation project is just one of many impressive environmental, economic and cultural projects happening in this part of the state.  There are art galleries along Main Street in Kingfield, a year round farmers’ market, of course the Kingfield Pops Festival we’ve heard about and the Arnold Expedition display in the Eustis Museum.  People in this part of the state are succeeding in building a strong economy from the unique places in their town centers and those surrounding their communities; their quality of place.

The modest Main Streets, mountains and trees are the foundation for the economy and they are what makes western Maine special.   As is the historic culture of the Benedict Arnold Expedition and the artifacts left behind as these men traveled through Maine to Canada at the time of the American Revolution.

GrowSmart Maine is connecting with key community members in western Maine, adding our expertise and connections to the ongoing collaborative efforts of so many people.  Western Maine lands and communities are productive and safe.   And the people who live here, whether new transplants or with roots that go back to the time of Benedict Arnold, are strengthening the economy with innovative manufacturing, creative economy enterprises and outdoor recreation opportunities that bring visitors to the area, with their spending money, while creating an interesting and engaging hometown for those who call this place home.