News Feature

Little Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 9, 2012
New initiative will raise funds to purchase Little Deer Isle pier and beach property, donate to town
Pending voter approval of gift at town meeting

The parcel of land to be purchased through fundraising efforts

The parcel of land to be purchased through fundraising efforts includes the pier, the beach between the pier and the bridge, the restaurant and parking lot and about half of the salt pond. The red line shows the western boundary line. The Bridge End Citizens’ Initiative will raise money to purchase the property, facilitated by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. MCHT will then restrict the land for public use only and gift it to the town of Deer Isle.

Photo courtesy of Bridge End Citizens’ Initiative

by Jessica Brophy

The Bridge End Citizens’ Initiative has announced its intention to raise $400,000 to purchase a two-acre parcel of the “Bridge End” property currently owned by Carl and Robin Rosenquist, permanently restrict it as public land, and then gift it to the town of Deer Isle.

The property in question, which is located at the head of the island where the bridge meets Little Deer Isle, is currently listed for $695,000 and includes the former Sisters restaurant building, parking lot, 324 feet of shore frontage, a natural boat launch area and a 300-foot pier with pier house and float system. Also included in the property are 10 moorings.

The two-acre parcel was once part of a larger property which is still on the market. The larger piece includes 12.5 acres, 540 feet of shore frontage, a five-bedroom home and the six-unit motel. Both pieces have been on the market since 2005. The Rosenquists, who live in Vermont, purchased the property in February 1998. With help from family members, the couple ran Sisters restaurant and the motel from 1998 to 2005.

The project to purchase the property for public use was the idea of Jean Wheeler of Inn at Ferry Landing and a few other area residents. Wheeler approached the Rosenquists more than three years ago to ask whether they would consider selling part of the larger property.

“It’s a wonderful place,” said Wheeler, who noted that the land would provide parking, public water access and boat launch opportunities for the town. “Land like this doesn’t come along often, and this piece is not likely to come up again.”

According to the Rosenquists, there was not enough local support when Wheeler approached them three years ago, though the Rosenquists thought the idea was a “reasonable fit.” In September 2011 the project was revived with the facilitation of Maine Coast Heritage Trust and an anonymous pledge of $50,000 toward the purchase. Wheeler said the Deer Isle selectmen are supportive of the potential gift, though they are leaving it to voters to decide during town meeting whether to accept the property.

Deer Isle Selectman Lew Ellis stressed that the funds for purchasing the land would not be coming from taxpayer funds.

“This is not an obligation to the town [to buy], if it’s voted to accept [the land] at town meeting,” said Ellis. “Myself, I think it’s a wonderful thing. Stonington has the pier, and I think this is something we need for fishermen, kayakers, and parking for people who want to go to the beach. What better spot for them?”

MCHT is acting as facilitator for the initiative, collecting pledges and tax-deductible donations for the project, handling the purchase and preservation of the land for public use, and then gifting the land to the town. Island Heritage Trust has endorsed the project but is not directly involved in the potential purchase and gift.

Ciona Ulbrich, senior project manager at MCHT, said support for the project has grown “exponentially” and has “broad community support.”

Should residents choose to accept the gift of land at town meeting on Monday, March 5, fundraising efforts will continue. The town would establish a committee to decide the future uses of the land. From information in a packet of materials provided by the Bridge End Citizens’ Initiative group, some of the possible issues the committee would decide is what to do with the restaurant building. Identified options include having it removed, leaving it in place and leasing it or leaving it in place unused. The committee would also decide what to do with the pier and moorings, and whether additional improvements might be made, such as signage or picnic tables.

The restaurant building had a new roof, 19 new pilings, new flooring in the kitchen and dining room and new kitchen equipment in 1998, according to the Rosenquists. The pier, too, underwent a significant amount of work at that time, including a new roof and flooring in the pier house, the replacement of many pilings, stringers and all the decking. Much of the decking around the pier house was also replaced two years ago, according to materials provided by the initiative. The moorings likely need new balls and possibly new chains, said Wheeler.

The town would also need to consider maintenance costs for the property as well, which include $175 per year to the Maine Agency of Submerged Lands for the moorings and pier, a small surcharge for the electric meter, and annual insurance costs, depending on use.

The initiative also notes several possible sources of income, such as leasing moorings, dock space or the restaurant building; seeking grant opportunities; or private fundraising.

Nearly $60,000 has been pledged to the project so far. To make a pledge, contact MCHT’s Nicky Blanchard at 729-7366 or Ciona Ulbrich at 244-5100. Donations may be made sometime in 2012 or 2013, and can be paid over the two years.