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Deer Isle, Isle au Haut and Stonington, Maine.
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by Jessica Brophy
The “Bridge End” property on Little Deer Isle—formerly the site of Sisters Restaurant—became the property of the Town of Deer Isle on August 17 after several months of fundraising.
During that time of fundraising, $400,000 of pledges were accepted by Bridge End Citizens’ Initiative, and a committee of five Deer Isle residents met regularly to form recommendations to the town selectmen for what should be done with the property.
On Tuesday, August 28, approximately 50 people gathered to hear those recommendations and to ask questions about how the property will be used now that it is owned by the town and designated as public land.
The committee, which includes Chairman Loring Kydd, Brent Morey, Nancy Knowlton, David Hawkins and Tony Eaton, offered several suggestions based on research conducted on the property and potential costs. All decisions remain the jurisdiction of the town’s selectmen.
Kydd said the committee’s philosophy as it met was “the simpler, the better.”
A major change suggested by the committee is to tear down the existing pier—which Brent Morey called “rotten”—and replace it with a system of floats, thereby maintaining the dock permit. Morey said it was recommended to remove the first part of the pier “immediately” to discourage the public from using the unsafe structure.
Along with a new float system, a poured concrete boat launch ramp 20-ft wide was suggested, to be built alongside the new dock system. The goal of a 20-ft wide ramp was to allow for multiple boat launches simultaneously.
The committee, with the help of Maine Coast Heritage Trust, applied for a $225,000 Maine Department of Transportation “Small Harbor Improvement Program” grant. If the grant is approved, much of the work described above could be completed. As part of the grant process, MCHT raised $45,000 in matching funds to qualify. Word on whether the grant is approved should be available in October.
The mooring field includes 11 moorings, none of which are useable at this time, said Kydd. The committee does not recommend updating the moorings for use at this time.
The committee recommended selling the restaurant equipment housed in the building, and tearing down the center portion of the restaurant building, as it is in poor shape and very saggy. Also, as part of the effort to keep things simple, Morey said the committee felt it was not ideal for the town to get into a situation of leasing the property as a restaurant or business. Such a tear down would increase parking space as well.
The committee recommended keeping the portion of the former restaurant closest to the road, as it is on a poured foundation. The board mentioned that it may make a suitable spot for the Deer Isle-Stonington Chamber of Commerce welcome center.
Ingrid Bengis, a member of the Island Culinary & Ecological Center, asked what the process would be for an organization to put its name in for the use of that building. “While the board of directors would need to make the decision, [ICEC] might be interested in hosting cooking workshops and lobster bakes there,” she said. The committee said any such appeals could be made to the town selectmen.
The committee also suggested widening the entrance to the property, making it safer and increasing visibility. A line of boulders would also be needed to mark out the public land from the private property beyond.
The committee tallied the total costs of maintaining the property annually, including the cost of portable toilets, trash removal, mowing, insurance and other costs, to be about $8,600 per year. Such monies could be taken out of the boat excise tax income, which totals between $11,000 and $12,000 per year.
The property has a good well, and a fairly up-to-date septic system, said MCHT’s Ciona Ulbrich in response to a question from an audience member. Both are located on the private property but are designated for “shared use.” The town and the private property owners—currently Carl and Robin Rosenquist—would split the cost of any needed repairs to those systems in the future, although the town has the ability to “opt out” of that agreement if it wishes to forgo access to the septic and well.
Kydd said other suggestions for the property have included using it as a place for a sailing team for the high school and using the saltwater pond for swimming.
A member of the audience asked what sort of signage was planned for the property, and said there should be large signs welcoming visitors to the property and marking it as public.
A party to celebrate the purchase will be held on Sunday, September 9 at 1 p.m. at the Bridge End property. Cake and watermelon will be served.
Jean Wheeler, who helped spearhead the fundraising efforts along with Ann Hooke, said donations are still being accepted and can be mailed to her address at 77 Old Ferry Road, Deer Isle. All checks should be made out to Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT). Any monies above and beyond the purchase price will go toward improvement projects at the site, said Wheeler. For more information, contact Wheeler at 348-7760.